Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

Poet, memoirist, and activist Maya Angelou has died at age 86.
Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Her death was confirmed by her longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. No immediate cause of death had been determined, but Ms. Brann said Ms. Angelou had been in frail health for some time and had had heart problems.

As well known as she was for her memoirs, which eventually filled six volumes, Ms. Angelou very likely received her widest exposure [to a general audience] on a chilly January day in 1993, when she delivered the inaugural poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," at the swearing-in of Bill Clinton, the nation's 42nd president, who, like Ms. Angelou, had grown up poor in rural Arkansas.
At Colorlines, Jamilah King has a beautiful post [CN: violence; sexual assault] about how Maya Angelou wants to be remembered.

I am looking at the dates of her birth and her death, and thinking about everything through which she lived, as a black woman who grew up in poverty, and her extraordinary capacity to document that life and experience.

And I am remembering her voice. The sound of her voice.

It was the consummate voice of a poet, for me. It always will be.

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