World-renowned poet, actress and novelist Maya Angelou has passed away. She was 86 and died at her home in North Carolina according to her publicist Helen Brann.
A professor, singer and dancer, among other things, Angelou’s work spans different professions. She spent her early years studying dance and drama in San Francisco, California. After dropping out at age 14, she became the city’s first African-American female cable car conductor.
Angelou later returned to high school to finish her diploma and gave birth to her son a few weeks after graduation. While the 17-year-old single mother waited tables to support her son, she acquired a passion for music and dance. She toured Europe in the mid-1950s with “Porgy and Bess,” an opera production. In 1957, she recorded her first album, “Calypso Lady.”
In 1958, Angelou become a part of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York and also played a queen in “The Blacks,” an off-Broadway production by French dramatist Jean Genet.
Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Angelou started writing after a childhood tragedy that shocked her into silence for nearly 10 years. When she was 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. He was later beaten to death by a mob after Angelou testified against him.
She spoke at least six languages, having worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. One of her most famous works to date is “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Rest in peace Maya Angelou. You will be sorely missed.
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