Renowned Poet and Author Maya Angelou Dies at 86

Published 05/28 2014 08:41AM

Updated 05/28 2014 09:22AM

Maya Angelou with Bill Clinton 2013. Photo courtesy: Facebook, Photographer Tony Powell.
Maya Angelou with Bill Clinton 2013. Photo courtesy: Facebook, Photographer Tony Powell.
NBC NEWS - Maya Angelou, the renowned poet, author and civil rights activist, has died, officials in her hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told NBC News. The author of the celebrated autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" was 86 years old.

Her death comes less than a week after Angelou announced she would not attend the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, where she was to be honored, citing "health reasons." Last month, she also canceled an event in Fayetteville, Arkansas, because she was recovering from an "unexpected ailment" that left her hospitalized.

Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, under the name Marguerite Annie Johnson. She grew up to become a singer, dancer, actress, writer and Hollywood's first female black director.

Angelou had an impressive list of accolades: She was a three-time Grammy winner and was nominated for a Pulitzer, a Tony, and an Emmy for her role in the groundbreaking television mini-series "Roots."

But her success didn't come easily. Angelou's life struggles were fodder for her work.

Her childhood had been marked by sexual abuse, which she detailed in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" — the first of numerous autobiographies she wrote.

Her first big break came as a singer in the 1950s.

KARK 4 note: Angelou lived in Stamps, (Lafayette County) Arkansas in the late 20s and early 30s. She was one of the first inductees of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

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