Poet, essayist, performer and civil rights advocate Maya Angelou has died. The Los Angeles Times reports that Angelou died today, May 28, 2014, at age 86. Her death was announced by Wake Forest University.
"As a poet, Angelou was best known for reading at President Clinton's inauguration in 1993. She was the first African American woman to have that honor, and the first poet to read at the inauguration since Robert Frost more than three decades earlier," the article reports. "The work she composed for the occasion, 'On the Pulse of Morning,' sold more than 1 million copies and its recording won a Grammy Award."
Angelou also was well-known as a writer of prose, including her 1969 memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." "The book, written after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and with the encouragement of her friend James Baldwin, told of her upbringing, facing racism and sexual abuse," the Times reports.
The report notes: "Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis and raised there and in Stamps, Ark., by her grandmother. Her grandmother was relatively well-off, but the family was subject to casual racism and the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. As she wrote in her memoir, at age 8, Angelou was raped by her mother's boyfriend, who was sent to jail for the crime; upon his release, he was beaten to death, possibly by her uncles."
Among her multi-faceted achievements, Angelou was San Francisco's first female African American cable car conductor, toured Europe as a singer in the opera "Porgy and Bess," was a dancer with Alvin Ailey, recorded an album, "Calypso Lady," and acted off-Broadway, the report notes.
"From 1960 through 1964 she worked abroad, in Egypt and Ghana. She returned to the U.S. to help Malcolm X set up an African American university, but he was assassinated. She was then enlisted by King to serve as a regional coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference," the Times adds.