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.
Maya Angelou: In her own words
Maya Angelou: In her own words
1/6 'There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth'
Maya Angelou with her book, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', in 1971
2/6 'Segregation shaped me, and education liberated me'
Maya Angelou in Washington in 1992
3/6 'Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible'
Maya Angelou delivers a speech in 1995
4/6 'Good done anywhere is good done everywhere'
Maya Angelou smiles during an interview in 2005
5/6 'At 15 life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honourable as resistance, especially if one had no choice'
Maya Angelou speaks during the 9th Annual Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon in 2011
6/6 'Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It’s very clear'
Maya Angelou with President Barack Obama in 2011
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.
"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be." Maya Angelou - who was utterly amazing.; J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 28, 2014
Thank You #MayaAngelou :'); Rihanna (@rihanna) May 28, 2014
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.; Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) May 28, 2014
RIP to one of the greatest women this world has ever known. Thank you Maya Angelou for all of the gifts and knowledge you gave us...; Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) May 28, 2014
Thank you, Maya, for your power, your politics, your poetry. We need you more than ever. Rest in peace.; Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) May 28, 2014