Maya Angelou, author, poet, dancer, actress, civil rights activist, and the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, has died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86 years old.
Professor Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis in 1928. Her brother gave her the nickname Maya and she adopted the last name Angelou in the 1950s, which she adapted from her first husband’s surname.
In 1969, Professor Angelou published the critically acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Random House), a story about her growing up in the racially segregated South. It was nominated for the National Book Award. She followed up this memoir with five additional autobiographical works. In 1993 she read her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. In 2011, President Obama presented Professor Angelou with the Medal of Freedom.
Wake Forest University issued a statement which read in part, “Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest.”