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Dr. Maya Angelou, lyrical witness of the Jim Crow South, dies

5/28/2014, 11:17 a.m.
Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which ...
Dr. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Her death was confirmed by her longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. No immediate cause of death had been determined, but Brann said Angelou had been in frail health for some time and had had heart problems.

As well known as she was for her memoirs, which eventually filled six volumes, Ms. Angelou very likely received her widest exposure on a chilly January day in 1993, when she delivered the inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the swearing-in of Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president, who, like Angelou, had grown up poor in rural Arkansas.

A statement from Angelou’s family:

Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Our hearts are broken but in mending will become stronger because we were loved by a woman who amazingly had enough love for all of us. To God be the Glory for the life and times of Maya Angelou.