Poet & Author Maya Angelou, Influenced By Arkansas Childhood, Dies At 86

May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou
Credit poetryfoundation.org

Author and poet Maya Angelou, who rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page, has died. She was 86.

Wake Forest University announced Angelou's death in a news release Wednesday. 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.

As a child, Angelou moved back and forth between Stamps, Arkansas and San Francisco.

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.

In a statement, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said:

Maya Angelou will always remain an Arkansas and American treasure. She drew from a troubled and painful childhood to write books and poems that have inspired countless others. From Stamps, Arkansas, to the steps of the U.S. Capitol for President Clinton's inauguration, Maya Angelou showed how strength, determination and honesty can take us all to the heights of greatness.