Maya Angelou, the iconic author and activist whose career spanned decades, has died at the age of 86, her publicist confirmed on Thursday morning. Angelou died at home, in Winston-Salem, N.C, after battling recent health problems.
A fixture for decades as a poet, artist, civil rights leader, and public intellectual, Angelou is known best for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a treatise on American racism, literature, and identity, which became a standard part of high school curricula across the United States. In that memoir, Angelou wrote that “words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.”
Through her career, Angelou was a voice for the civil rights movement and the legacy of the Jim Crow South. She famously read a poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, On the Pulse of Morning, in 1994.