News / Arts & Entertainment

    US Poet, Author Maya Angelou Dies at 86

    • Maya Angelou answers questions at her portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, April 5, 2014.
    • Maya Angelou talks with Johnnetta Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art, at Maya Angelou's portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, April 5, 2014.
    • Maya Angelou receives the 2010 Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, Feb. 15, 2011.
    • South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu listens as author Maya Angelou delivers a tribute to him at the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding Award Ceremony in Washington, Nov. 21, 2008.
    • Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey share laughs during a star-studded double-taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," Chicago, May 17, 2011.
    • American poet and writer Maya Angelou shown on Dec. 15, 1992.
    • Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is shown with three of 1983's six women in the field of communications who received the Matrix Award from the New York Chapter of Women in Communications, Inc. From left: Jane Bryant Quinn, Maya Angelou and Mary McGrory.
    • Maya Angelou, November 3, 1971.
    Maya Angelou
    VOA News
    Acclaimed poet, author, playwright, actress and activist Maya Angelou has died at age 86 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, stilling a leading voice in American literature.
     
    The prolific African-American writer provided eloquent commentary on race, gender and living fully. She penned more than 30 books, such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” She won numerous awards and was honored last year by the National Book Awards for her service to the literary community, Reuters reported. In 2011, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. She read a poem at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, in 1993.
     
    Angelou was to have been honored Friday in Houston at Major League Baseball’s Beacon Awards Luncheon, before the annual Civil Rights game, but had declined last week, citing health reasons.    
     
    A Facebook post attributed to her son, Guy B. Johnson, said Angelou “passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST.
     
    Maya Angelou
     
    • Born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Mo.
    • Served as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
    • Worked as editor in Egypt and Ghana in the 1960s
    • 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' published in 1969
    • First African-American female member of the Directors Guild of America
    • Recited a poem at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration
    • Won 3 Grammys, National Medal of Arts, Presidential Medal of Freedom

    “Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension,” the post continued. “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.”
     
    The executive director of the National Book Foundation, Harold Augenbraum, described her as “an extraordinary symbol in the United States of what can be accomplished using the arts."

    "She was beyond simply being a writer of autobiography and poetry,” Augenbraum told Reuters. He said Angelou used "writing as a transcendence medium to further the individual."

    Related video report by VOA's Mary Alice Salinas:
     
    Maya Angelou, Legendary American Author and Poet, Dies at 86i
    X
    Mary Alice Salinas
    May 28, 2014 9:28 PM
    Legendary American author, poet, playwright and activist Maya Angelou has died at 86. Her family says she "passed quietly" at her North Carolina home on Wednesday, but they did not disclose the cause of death. Angelou rose to fame after writing about her life as an impoverished black girl growing up in the segregated South. VOA's Mary Alice Salinas has more about her life and career.

    An inspiration
     
    Angelou also was mourned at Wake Forest University, where she had been a professor of American studies since 1982. The Winston-Salem university, on its website, lamented the loss of “beloved poet, author, actress, civil rights actress and professor  Dr. Maya Angelou,” saying her “life and teachings inspired millions around the world.”

    At Wake Forest, Angelou taught literature, ethics and writing. In a 2012 interview with the student newspaper, Old Gold and Black, she said, “I have found that I’m not a writer who can teach, I really am a teacher who can write.”
     
    Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, she spent much of her childhood with her grandmother in tiny Stamps, Arkansas. For Southern blacks, it was a time of racial segregation and economic hardship. What made life tolerable, she said, were the stories, songs and folk wisdom passed down from one generation to the next.
     
    Angelou credited her tiny childhood church with teaching her about how such art could work magic.
     
    “When all the members were there, we had 32 people in the whole church," she said. "And yet in that church, I learned so much about the power of art to help human beings transcend almost anything."
     
    Angelou bore her only child at age 16, the Raleigh New & Observer reported, noting that Angelou married and divorced at least twice. She supported herself and her son in various jobs – as a waitress, cook, streetcar conductor and calypso dancer and singer. While performing in Europe, she adopted a brother’s nickname for her and amended a husband’s surname to create a stage name. She worked as an editor for the Arab Observer in Cairo in the early 1960s. 
     
    She mixed civil rights activism with her writing and performing. According to the Associated Press, she worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Council and then, while living in Egypt and Ghana, befriended South African leader and later President Nelson Mandela. She was close to Malcolmn X until his 1965 assassination. She was helping Martin Luther King Jr. organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, when the civil rights leader was shot and killed.  
     
    Urged to record her stories

    Angelou’s literary career began after the writer James Baldwin and others heard her childhood stories and urged her to write them down.

    FILE: At Maya Angelou’s portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the writer, seated, is joined by, from left, National African Art Museum director Johnnetta Cole, National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet and Oprah Winfrey in Washington, D.C., in April 2014.FILE: At Maya Angelou’s portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the writer, seated, is joined by, from left, National African Art Museum director Johnnetta Cole, National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet and Oprah Winfrey in Washington, D.C., in April 2014.
    x
    FILE: At Maya Angelou’s portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the writer, seated, is joined by, from left, National African Art Museum director Johnnetta Cole, National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet and Oprah Winfrey in Washington, D.C., in April 2014.
    FILE: At Maya Angelou’s portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the writer, seated, is joined by, from left, National African Art Museum director Johnnetta Cole, National Portrait Gallery director Kim Sajet and Oprah Winfrey in Washington, D.C., in April 2014.
    The 1969 publication of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" brought her wide acclaim. The coming-of-age story, set in the American South, grappled with issues such as racism and rape.
     
    Angelou's work again found a vast audience when she read “On the Pulse of the Morning” at Clinton’s inauguration. While she supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential race, she reveled in the election of the nation’s first black president. In 2011, Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2013, she received an honorary National Book Award.

    A prolific writer, Angelou produced numerous essays, memoirs, screenplays, children’s books, cookbooks, but she is best known for “Caged Bird,” “Still I Rise, “Letter to My Daughter” and “Still I Rise.” Her latest work "Mom & Me & Mom," about her mother and grandmother and what they taught her, was released last year.

    A varied career

    She also appeared in film and television, and recorded music and her poetry. She won three Grammys for her spoken-word albums, the Associated Press reported, and in 2013 received an honorary National Book Award for her contributions to the literary community.

    She was a friend and mentor to the novelist Toni Morrison and media giant Oprah Winfrey, among others. She appeared frequently on “Oprah,” Winfrey’s long-running television talk show and, in recent years, had an audience on the XM radio channel “Oprah and Friends.”   
     
    She shared some of her writing on a Facebook account.  One of her last posts, dated May 23, was this: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
     
    Error rendering storify.

    VOA's Faith Lapidus contributed to this report. Some information was provided by Reuters.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    May 29, 2014 12:01 AM
    REST IN PEACE MAYA ANGELOU. WE LOVE YOU, YOU WILL ALWAYS LIVE IN YOUR HEARTS, AND YOUR LEGACY LIVES FOREVER. YOU CHANGE HISTORY BABE GIRL IN THE US AND AROUND THE WORLD. ALL I CAN SAY TODAY TO YOU MAYA IS, KEEP ON LIVING. WE MISSED YOU, BYE NOW MAYA.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.

    New in Music Alley

    Beyond Category: Arturo Sandovali
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 02, 2016 3:53 PM
    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.

    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.