Dr. Maya Angelou, Author and Poet, Dies at Age 86 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

When she was in her 20s, Dr. Maya Angelou discovered the Unity Church. Founded in 1889, Unity is a Christian movement that emphasizes affirmative prayer and education as a path to spirituality. Watch as she is moved to tears while recalling the revelation that changed her life forever.

Award-winning author, renowned poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou, at age 86, was found dead in her Winston-Salem, N.C., home Wednesday morning.

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis on April 4, 1928, Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and San Francisco. She was moved back and forth between her parents and grandmother, and was reportedly sent to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas.

Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend at age 7 and did not speak for years afterward, but she learned by reading and listening. By age 9, Angelou was writing poetry, and by age 17 she was a single mother. She danced at a strip club in her early 20s, ran a brothel and married Enistasious Tosh Angelos (the first of her three husbands).

She met Malcom X in the 1960s while living in Ghana, West Africa. Angelou helped the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., organize the march in Memphis, Tenn., where he was killed on Angelou’s 40th birthday.

Angelou was little known outside of the theatrical community until I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969, which was occasionally attacked as “manipulative” melodrama. Descriptions of rape and teen pregnancy have made the memoir a mainstay on the American Library Association’s list of works protested by parents and educators.

In her mid-20s, she performed alongside soon-to-be star Phyllis Diller at the Purple Onion in San Francisco.

Angelou was also nominated for a Tony Award in 1973, won three Grammys for her spoken-word albums, and received an honorary National Book Award in 2013 for her contributions.

In 1993 at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” — a call for peace, justice, and harmony with the themes of change, responsibility, and the President’s and the citizenry’s role in establishing economic security.

Maya Angelou, one of America’s most celebrated poets, novelists and civil-rights activists has passed away. Angelou, who served on two Presidential committees and was awarded numerous awards, was 86 years old.

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