Maya Angelou passed away this morning at the age of 86. This American poet and author who was best known for her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” has actually published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. She is also credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years.
Also known for being BFFs with Oprah and reading at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton, this legendary woman lived a life that embraced the arts and lived her life to the fullest.
Born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, as Marguerite Annie Johnson, when her parents divorced, she went to live with her brother and grandmother in racially segregated Arkansas. It was her brother who nicknamed her Maya.
When something terrible happened to her, she confided in her brother. A few days later, the person who had hurt her showed up dead. Angelou is quoted as saying that she felt her words had killed someone and from there did not speak for almost five years. She had her voice, but refused to speak.
When Angelou’s mother moved to San Francisco, she and her brother moved as well. Maya won a scholarship for dance and acting at the California Labor School. While in San Francisco, Angelou became the first black female cable car conductor—a job she held only briefly, but what an adventure this woman lived in her own life.
One of her most famous works is the poem "On the Pulse of Morning," which she wrote especially for and recited at President Bill Clinton's inaugural ceremony in January 1993—marking the first inaugural recitation since 1961, when Robert Frost delivered his poem "The Gift Outright" at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Angelou went on to win a Grammy Award (best spoken word album) for the audio version of the poem.