Award-winning author, renowned poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou was found dead in her North Carolina home Wednesday morning this week. Dr. Angelou was 86 when found at home in Winston-Salem.
“I’m not modest,” Maya Angelou told The Associated Press in 2013. “I have no modesty. Modesty is a learned behavior. But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out.”
Her story has been the awe of millions for years. The young single mother was raised in poverty as a child in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. She later worked at strip clubs, as a prostitute and brothel manager, and danced and sang on stages around the world to make a living. She wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history as she read her cautiously hopeful “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. A childhood victim of rape, shamed into silence, Dr. Angelou eventually told her story through one of the most widely read memoirs of the past few decades.
Angelou became a cultural icon after her famously acclaimed first autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which also made her one of the first African-American women to write a best-seller. The 86-year-old had been a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University since 1982. “She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace,” her son, Guy B. Johnson said.
“Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya,” President Obama said in a statement. “With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, ‘flung up to heaven’ — and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.”