Legendary American author, Maya Angelou, died in her North Carolina home on Wednesday, May 28 at the age of 86. According to CNN, Angelou’s literary agent said, “that she was suffering from heart problems and appeared to be frail.”
Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis. She spent her early childhood between the then-racially segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas and St. Louis. After she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of 7, she went into a six year silence which sparked her writing interests.
According to CNN, she dropped out of school at the age of 14 where she studied drama and dance in San Francisco. Angelou then became the first women street car driver in the city of San Francisco at the age of 16. One year later she returned to high school and acquired her diploma. Shortly after graduation she gave birth to a son and raised him as a single mother.
Often referred to as Dr. Angelou, she never actually went to college but received over 30 honorary degrees as well as taught American studies for multiple years in Winston-Salem at Wake Forest University. Speaking at least six different languages, she worked as a newspaper editor in Ghana and Egypt.
Angelou’s most famous work, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was historic as well as progressive during its publication in 1969. The book described the harsh racism of the south around the time of the Jim Crow Law through the eyes of Marguerite Ann Johnson (birth name of Angelou) from early childhood to the age of 16. It was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and was an international bestseller. Aside from writing inspiring and beautiful poetry as well as a cookbook, she also had a multifaceted career as a singer, dancer and director.