Poet Maya Angelou dies at 86

Posted: May 28, 2014 at 8:49 a.m.
Updated: May 28, 2014 at 9:54 a.m.

In this Nov. 21, 2008, file photo, poet Maya Angelou is shown in Washington.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — 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.

Angelou was born in Missouri but spent much of her childhood in Stamps, Ark.

She gained acclaim for her first book, her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, making her one of the first black 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.

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.

Gov. Mike Beebe called Angelou "an Arkansas and American treasure."

"She drew from a troubled and painful childhood to write books and poems that have inspired countless others," he said in a statement. "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.”

Angelou had been scheduled to speak in Fayetteville last month, but she canceled the appearance because of health reasons.

Her cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the full story.

Maya Angelou poem at Clinton inauguration

Maya Angelou reads her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's first presidential inauguration in 1993. (By Courtesy William J. Clinton Presidential Library)
[View Full-Size]