African-American author and poet Maya Angelou has died at age 86 in North Carolina.
Maya Angelou was a an eloquent commentator on race and gender best known for her groundbreaking autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – which is a coming-of-age story in a hostile society in the American South in the 1930s and 1940s that deals with racism and rape, and is considered an American classic.
“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,” her family said.
Angelou penned more than 30 books, won numerous awards, and was honoured last year by the National Book Awards for her service to the literary community.
In addition to her many books, Angelou also directed, wrote and acted in movies, plays and television programs and was a singer, songwriter, educator and popular lecturer. She was a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums.
Active in the US civil rights movement in the 1960s, Angelou worked with both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X.
She spent part of her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas with her grandmother after her parents divorced.
At age seven, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later beaten to death in an assault that some believed was carried out by Angelou’s uncles.
The trauma of the rape and her assailant’s death left Angelou mute for six years.
Her devoted readers found plenty of inspiration in the works of Angelou, who once summed up her approach to life by saying: “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I’m with you, kid. Let’s go.'”