BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A tremendous loss for the country. Renowned poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has died.
Jessica Kartalija has more on her remarkable life.
Angelou had been frail and suffering from heart problems. She passed away at her North Carolina home at the age of 86.
Maya Angelou put her pain into poetry: “Up from a past rooted in pain, I arised,” she said.
That was her message for half a century–to rise above misery and find hope.
“Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I arise into a daybreak miraculously clear,” she said.
She grew up poor in Stamps, Arkansas, where at the age of seven, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. After testifying against him, he was murdered.
“I was seven and a half. And my seven and a half year old logic deduced that my voice had killed him. So I stopped speaking for almost six years,” Angelou said.
During those six years of silence, she discovered poetry and her love of art.
When she found her voice, Angelou went on to learn five languages and travel to Africa, where she met Malcolm X and took on a role in the Civil Rights Movement. She also worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and was devastated when he was assassinated on her 40th birthday.
Her most acclaimed work came shortly after. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was the story of her childhood. She wrote six autobiographical volumes of poetry. She was also an actress, songwriter and historian. She won three Grammy Awards and directed and produced movies.
She was also a professor at Wake Forest University.
“If I had taught before I had written books, I might never have written a book. I love to teach. I am a teacher,”said Angelou.
She brought her poetry to the White House with a reading at Bill Clinton’s inauguration and a Christmas tree lighting for President Bush.
In 2011, President Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.
“She has inspired countless others who have known injustice and misfortune in their lives,” the president said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued this statement regarding Angelou’s passing:
“When I think of Dr. Maya Angelou, one word summarizes her total existence—phenomenal. She was the embodiment of a leader with tremendous fortitude, who persevered, overcame, and remained committed to demonstrating and living by the principle that love should always be the foundation on which all humanity should exist. She will truly be missed. Her ability to reach and inspire all people is a testament to the strength of her character and her faith in the resilience of her fellow man.”
Congressman Elijah E. Cummings also released a statement on the death of the trailblazing novelist and poet.
“Maya Angelou was a force of strength, beauty and resilience whose voice will be missed around the world. Her ability to grasp strands of hope in even the most devastating circumstances has inspired generations of Americans, and her capacity to express her story through her poetry and prose made her an international icon.
“Despite experiencing poverty and violence in her childhood, Ms. Angelou danced with Alvin Ailey, acted on Broadway, taught at Wake Forest University, spoke at a presidential inauguration and advanced the Civil Rights Movement. In each of these roles, she served as a model of grace and determination for those who face adversity, often speaking directly to them with incomparable phrases like, ‘You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.’
“Ms. Angelou blazed a trail for others to follow, and has left us a legacy that will never be forgotten. My prayers are with her family at this difficult time.”
Dr. Angelou was going to be honored before the Orioles and Houston Astros game on Friday.
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