Maya Angelou, legendary writer, poet, novelist, and actress, has died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this morning. Her literary agent, Helen Brann, confirmed the news shortly after, noting that “she’d been very frail and had heart problems.” She was 86.
Brann also confirmed that Angelou was “in good spirits” and had just finished a book.
CNN remembers the icon in a beautiful obit:
Her list of friends is as impressive as her illustrious career. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey referred to her as “sister friend.” She counted Martin Luther King Jr., with whom she worked during the Civil Rights movement, among her friends. King was assassinated on her birthday.
Angelou spoke at least six languages, and worked at one time as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. During that period, she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” launching the first in a series of autobiographical books.
“I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine … before she realizes she’s reading,” Angelou said.
She was also one of the first black women film directors. Her work on Broadway has been nominated for Tony Awards.
Before making it big, the 6-foot-tall wordsmith also worked as a cook and sang with a traveling road show. “Look where we’ve all come from … coming out of darkness, moving toward the light,” she once said. “It is a long journey, but a sweet one, bittersweet.”
As an activist for the LGBT community, Angelou joined a number of celebrities in 2009 in lobbying the New York state Senate for marriage equality. It was reported that she personally placed three phone calls to state senators, urging them to pass marriage equality in “a matter of fairness.”
“To love someone takes a lot of courage,” she said. “So how much more is one challenged when the love is of the same sex and the laws say, ‘I forbid you from loving this person’?”
Rest in peace, Miss Angelou. Our condolences to her family and all those touched by her legacy.