Maya Angelou dies aged 86: Famed poet and author passes away at her home

Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Maya Angelou, the renowned American poet, author, actress, activist and director, has died at the age of 86.

A statement on Angelou's Facebook page from her son Guy B. Johnson confirmed her death today.

It said: "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."

Born Marguerite Johnson in 1928, Angelou is perhaps best known for her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiography detailing her traumatic childhood and the oppression she endured growing up in America's racially segregated Deep South in the 1930s.

The novel, published in 1969, saw her become one of the first African-American women to write a best-seller.

The book traced her life after Angelou was sent to live in Stamps, Arkansas with her grandmother when she was three, until she was taken to St. Louis, Missouri, where she was raped by her mother's boyfriend when she was eight-years-old.


After telling her family she had been abused, her mother's boyfriend was killed and Angelou did not speak to anyone but her brother for five years.

She later gave birth to her son when she was 17 and worked as a singer, dancer, cocktail waitress,a  madam and an actress to support herself until her literary breakthrough with the 1968 TV series Black, Blues, Black, which examined the role of African culture in American life.

Angelou authored more than 30 books in her lifetime, including seven autobiographies, and was a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums.

She had a home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she served as a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University since 1982.

Following news of her passing, Wake Forest released the statement: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time."

Her poem On the Pulse of the Morning, written for the first inauguration of US President Bill Clinton in 1993, sold more than a million copies in America.

Angelou appeared on several TV programs, notably the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries Roots. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her appearance in the play Look Away.

In 1998, she turned her hand to directing with the film Down in the Delta, which followed a drug-addicted woman as she returned to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta.

Angelou received over 30 honorary doctoral degrees and held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest.

She had recently cancelled a series of scheduled appearances for health reasons.