The caged bird who helped free the minds of racist America: Poet Maya Angelou is found dead aged 86 after final prophetic tweet

Posted: May 29, 2014 in History

 

  • Maya Angelou was found dead by her caretaker Wednesday morning at her home in Winston-Salem North Carolina
  • She was known as a poet and an author, but also wowed audiences as a dancer, singer, actress and director – appearing on stage, in film and on TV
  • She worked as a fry cook, a nightclub dancer, a civil rights activist and even a prostitute before she found fame
  • Her 1970 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became one of the first best-sellers written by a black woman
  • Tributes are pouring in from all corners of public life – from politicians like Nancy Pelosi to musicians like Mary J. Blidge and authors like J.K. Rowling
  • President Barack Obama revealed his own sister was named Maya as a tribute to her

Maya Angelou, the groundbreaking poet and author who inspired millions of Americans with her moving memoirs and works of fiction, is dead at 86.

A caretaker found Angelou dead at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday morning when she arrived to check on the ailing poet.

A hearse with a police escort pulled away from her home about 9am Wednesday after medics and detectives investigated the scene.

Her son Gary B. Johnson, her only child, issued a statement about the author’s death: ‘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.’

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Failing health: Angelou maintained a high public profile, despite her deteriorating health. She is seen here on April 5 as her portrait was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington

Failing health: Angelou maintained a high public profile, despite her deteriorating health. She is seen here on April 5 as her portrait was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington

 

Honored: Among the countless accolades Angelou received was the 2010 Medal of Freedom, presented by President Barack Obama in February 2011

Honored: Among the countless accolades Angelou received was the 2010 Medal of Freedom, presented by President Barack Obama in February 2011

 

Angelou's official portrait will be installed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington Thursday - one day after her death

Angelou’s official portrait will be installed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington Thursday – one day after her death

 

Inspiring: Even in her failing health, Angelou continued to inspire the people around her. Her final tweet was sent just five days ago

Inspiring: Even in her failing health, Angelou continued to inspire the people around her. Her final tweet was sent just five days ago

 

 

On Thursday – just one day after her death – her official portrait will be installed in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

Angelou had been struggling with health problems in recent weeks and had canceled a May 30 appearance at the 2014 MLB Beacon Award Luncheon in Houston, where she was to be honored with the ‘Beacon Life Award.’

The civil rights icon blamed her failing health for missing the event.

She remained active, even as her health began to deteriorate. On May 23, five days before her death, she tweeted, ‘Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.’

Angelou has been celebrated as one of the greatest writers of her generation, bringing light to the struggles of women and African Americans – as well as the human condition, writ large.

 

‘Human beings are more alike than we are unalike,’ she was often quoted as saying.

She was one of the the first African American women to write a best-selling book and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry and a Tony for her acting. She won two Grammys for spoken word albums of her poetry and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

Tributes began pouring from all corners of public life – from authors to politicians and musicians, both young and old.

President Barack Obama issued a statement saying: ‘She was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true.  A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.’

His own sister, he said, was named Maya as a tribute to the author.

Angelou is seen here at one of her last public appearance April 5. She is flanked by Kim Sajet, Richard Kurin, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, Johnnetta Cole, Ross Rossin, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ambassador Andrew Young

Angelou is seen here at one of her last public appearance April 5. She is flanked by Kim Sajet, Richard Kurin, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, Johnnetta Cole, Ross Rossin, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ambassador Andrew Young

 

Pals: Angelou was a longtime friend and mentor to Oprah Winfrey - starring alongside her in the historic TV miniseries 'Roots'

Pals: Angelou was a longtime friend and mentor to Oprah Winfrey – starring alongside her in the historic TV miniseries ‘Roots’

 

National treasure: Maya Angelou, seen here on the set of Sesame Street, became a public-celebrated public intellectual

National treasure: Maya Angelou, seen here on the set of Sesame Street, became a public-celebrated public intellectual

 

  

Politicians and poetry lovers remember Maya Angelou

Former President Bill Clinton also mourned her death: ‘With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I a beloved friend.’

‘Saddened by the news of Maya Angelou’s passing. A brilliant woman who contributed so much to the world. Her light will be sorely missed,’ wrote Pharrell Williams.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted: “‘If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” Maya Angelou – who was utterly amazing.’

Said New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, whose wife is herself a poet; ‘Rest in peace, Dr. Maya Angelou. The world is better because of your voice.’

The singer Rhianna tweeted; ‘Angel. #RIPMayaAngelou The first book I read as a teenager, “I know why the caged bird sings”. Felt like we knew her.’

Angelou rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page and one of the most influential writers in American history.

Before she earned fame as a writer, she struggled as a young woman – working as a fry cook, a nightclub dancer, a performer and even a prostitute.

This is the only photo of Only photo of Maya Angelou at school, taken in  1945 at George Washington High School in San Francisco, California. She is pictured back row, right

This is the only photo of Only photo of Maya Angelou at school, taken in 1945 at George Washington High School in San Francisco, California. She is pictured back row, right

 

Poet Maya Angelou dies at age 86

She gained acclaim for her first book, her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, making her one of the first African-American women to write a best-seller.

In 1998, she directed the film Down in the Delta about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta.

She was the poet chosen to read at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993. She wrote and read an original composition, ‘On the Pulse of Morning,’ which became a million-seller.

SAGE ADVICE FROM ONE OF AMERICA’S GREATEST VOICES: UNFORGETTABLE QUOTES OF MAYA ANGELOU

  • ‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.’
  • ‘If you get, give. If you learn, teach.’
  • ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’
  • ‘Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.’
  • ‘One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.
  • ‘Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.
  • ‘I believe that each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.
  • ‘When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.’
  • ‘Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.’
  • ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’
  • ‘Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.’

Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, Angelou defied all probability and category, becoming one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success as an author and thriving in virtually every artistic medium. The young single mother who performed at strip clubs to earn a living later wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history.

The childhood victim of rape wrote a million-selling memoir, befriended Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and performed on stages around the world.

An actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s, she broke through as an author in 1970 with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading, and was the first of a multipart autobiography that continued through the decades.

In 1993, she was a sensation reading her cautiously hopeful “On the Pulse of the Morning” at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made the poem a best-seller, if not a critical favorite. For former President George W. Bush, she read another poem, ‘Amazing Peace,’ at the 2005 Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House.

She remained close enough to the Clintons that in 2008 she supported Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy over the ultimately successful run of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama. But a few days before Obama’s inauguration, she was clearly overjoyed. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she would be watching it on television ‘somewhere between crying and praying and being grateful and laughing when I see faces I know.’

She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend’s talk show program. She mastered several languages and published not just poetry, but advice books, cookbooks and children’s stories.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2641702/Maya-Angelou-dead-86.html#ixzz334AJYJsD
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