Known for her literary genius and poetic prowess, renowned poet, Maya Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
One of the greatest American poets, she was a modern Renaissance woman. The singer, actor, poet and educator began her career in the mid-1950s touring Europe in the opera production “Porgy and Bess.” She recorded her first album, “Calypso Lady,” in 1957.
National Action Network Civil Rights activist and MSNBC’s Politics Nation host Reverend Al Sharpton was reflective of Angeleou: “Maya Angelou was the quintessential renaissance woman of the 20thcentury art and human rights movements,” Reverend Sharpton said in a released statement.
“Not only was she a literary icon, she was one of the few that turned her words into action. Although she participated in civil rights rallies, she challenged leaders of the civil rights movement to embrace the struggles of others and a broader view of freedom fighting.,” he said.
Her early life was impressive. At age 9, she was writing poetry, by 17, she was a single mother and in her early 20s, danced at a strip joint, ran a brothel, was married and then divorced. Angelou joined the Harlem Writers Guild in New York in 1958 and also played a queen in “The Blacks,” an off-Broadway production by French dramatist Jean Genet.
Never college educated, Maya Angelou holds more than 30 honorary degrees from universities and was an American studies professor at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Dr. Angelou, as she was called, was a victim of rape as a child at seven years old by her mother’s boyfriend. She became silent but used poetry as an outlet to get out her thoughts and empower others.
Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,is her best known memoir and is still read by schools today. “She challenged misogyny in the movement and was our poet, conscience, teacher and corrector. She was one of the few people whose presence you felt in the room even if she didn’t say a word. Her spirit was incomparable,” said Sharpton.
Angelou also spoke at least six languages and worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. Her response to the world was: “Make sure what you say is the truth, but don’t tell everything you know.”