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R.I.P.: Dr. Maya Angelou Dies At 86, Oprah & President Obama Release Statements

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The legend, icon and woman of the most eloquent words we have heard in our lifetime, has died.  Dr. Maya Angelou has passed away at 86, as confirmed by the mayor of her home Winston-Salem, NC and her publicist.


More inside.

Dr. Maya Angelou, who has reportedly battled health problems recently, has died.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that a hearse with a police escort pulled away from her North Carolina home about 9 a.m. this morning.  The city's mayor, Allen Joines, and her publicist both confirmed that Dr. Angelou was found by her caretaker early this morning. 

She had previouly canceled her appearance at the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon in Houston that is scheduled for this Friday, where she was set to receive an award.

The legendary poet, activist, civil rights leader, film director, teacher, and former singer & dancer has an 18-room house in Winston-Salem, as well as two town houses in Harlem.  She was most recently serving as the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.

The story of Dr. Angelou will always be a grand and legendary one. 

The Phenomenal Woman was born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928.  As for how she came to Maya Angelou: Her older brother Bailey gave her the nickname Maya. She adopted the last name of Angelou during the early 1950s when she began performing as a dancer and singer. The name was a variation on her first husband’s, Tosh Angelos’, surname.

We would be here for weeks if we listed the accomplishments of Dr. Angelou.  But some noteworthy notations: She has 50 honorary degrees, a Pulitzer Prize nomination, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, several Tony Award nominations, a Grammy Award for Spoken Word, admiration from our world leaders and several other accolades during her lifetime.


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The author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Phenomenal Woman, as well as spoken word artist of Sojourner Truth's Aint I A Woman, spoke for human beings, especially black women, in a way no one could ever replicate.  Our global icons such as First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey have continuously shown their overwhelming admiration for the poet, who instilled a sense of pride and empowerment in those who listened to her words.

We thank Dr. Angelou for being our voice of truth, for making US feel beautiful while the world tells us (and even told her) we are not, and for staying strong in the struggle & triumphs of race and gender equality with the utmost grace. 

Her contributions were the epitome of necessary, and will undoubtedly live on as she has made an undeniable imprint on our culture.

R.I.P. Dr. Angelou.


Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family from her official Facebook Page:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. 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.
Guy B. Johnson


Oprah released this statement on Instagram...

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I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.


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President Obama award Dr. Angelou the Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the White House in 2011. He released a statement saying,

"When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that 'No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn. Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.

Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.

Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, 'flung up to heaven' – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring."




Photos: Getty

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