Maya Angelou, a modern Renaissance woman who survived the harshest of childhoods to become a force on stage, screen, the printed page and the inaugural dais, has died. She was 86. Her death was confirmed in a statement issued by Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she had served as a professor of American Studies since 1982. 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 Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and performed on stages around the world.
Maya Angelou, a 6 foot multi-talented ex-Arkansan, has been hired as Hollywood’s first black woman movie director, November 3, 1971. She’ll write the script and music, as well as direct “Caged Bird,” which is based on her best-selling 1969 autobiography. She’s been a professional singer, dancer, writer, composer, poet, lecturer, editor, and San Francisco streetcar conductorette. (AP Photo)
In this Feb. 15, 2011 photo, President Barack Obama kisses author and poet Maya Angelou after awarding her the 2010 Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Angelou, author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” has died, Wake Forest University said Wednesday, May 28, 2014. She was 86. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., campaigns with author Maya Angelou at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday, April 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Maya Angelou, left, and Oprah Winfrey share laughs during a star-studded double-taping of “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular,” Tuesday, May 17, 2011, in Chicago. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is ending its run May 25, after 25 years, and millions of her fans around the globe are waiting to see how she will close out a show that spawned a media empire. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
U.S. first lady Betty Ford, third from right, poses with six other women who took part in the taping of the television special presentation of Ladies’ Home Journal “Woman of the Year 1976” in New York City, Thursday, April 8, 1976. From left are, Betty Furness, Bettye Caldwell, Maya Angelou, singer Kate Smith, Ford, Dr. Annie D. Wauneka and Micki King. (AP Photo)
Poet Dr. Maya Angelou speaks during a memorial service for Betty Shabazz at Riverside Church in the Harlem section of New York Sunday, June 29, 1997. The widow of Malcolm X died last Monday, nearly a month after she was burned in a fire at her home. More than 2,000 of Mrs. Shabazz’s friends, relatives and admirers paid a buoyant and affectionate tribute to her Sunday. (AP Photo/Emile Wamsteker)
Maya Angelou, poet in residence at Wake Forest University, talks about the poem she wrote for President Clinton’s inauguration from her office in Winston-Salem, N.C., Sept. 16, 1996. Angelou will narrate the poem to music Saturday at the school. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Lead Image Caption: In this Nov. 21, 2008 photo, poet Maya Angelou smiles at an event in Washington. Angelou, author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” has died, Wake Forest University said Wednesday, May 28, 2014. She was 86. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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