Maya Angelou, poet, dies at age 86

Author Maya Angelou delivers a tribute to South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding Award Ceremony at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Nov. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW YORK (AP) – Maya Angelou is being remembered as a modern Renaissance woman who survived the harshest of childhoods to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page.

She called herself a poet, telling The Associated Press last year that she was in love with the “sound of language.”

A victim of rape at age 7, she didn’t speak for years but was writing poetry at age 9 and became a mother by 17. She eventually told her story in her memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Honored by presidents with the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Angelou recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history. Her poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration became a best-seller.

Angelou’s son, Guy B. Johnson, says she “lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being” and served as “a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace.”

Johnson says his mother died this morning at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she had been a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University for more than three decades. Maya Angelou was 86.

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