When Did Maya Angelou Pass Away

Maya Angelou was a renowned author, poet, and civil rights leader, best known for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). Born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, Angelou experienced a difficult childhood, with a teen pregnancy, as well as living through a number of traumatic racial incidents throughout her life. Angelou’s talent as a poet and performer made her an international icon. On May 28, 2014, the world was mourning the loss of Maya Angelou – she passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 86.

In the early 1950s, Angelou worked around the globe, eventually settling in the African nation of Ghana, which at the time had just gained independence from Europe. Angelou immersing herself in the country’s music and culture and worked as a journalist and editor in Accra. After being asked by Dr. King, Angelou returned to America in the 1960s and began a long career as a performance artist and civil rights activist. The 1970 publication of her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was a groundbreaking work, one that placed Angelou on a global podium to champion social justice and civil rights.

Angelou spoke a number of languages and published a total of seven autobiographical works, in addition to numerous collections of poetry, essays and plays. As the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Lincoln Medal, among other honors, Angelou held a string of honorary appointments, including several professorships, making her the first female African-American professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Still, Angelou defied labels, and could as easily wow a stadium crowd as charm her university students. She appeared in dozens of film and television projects, including the TV miniseries Roots (1977).

At the time of her death, Maya Angelou had published nearly 40 books, some of which have become timeless classics. Since her passing, there has been an influx of honors and memorials to the late poet, including a posthumous Pulitzer Prize nomination for her 2012 book of poems, Mom & Me & Mom. After her departure, it was revealed that she had been working on a new book called Celebration, telling the story of her lifetime journey. On May 28, 2014, the world was mourning the loss of Maya Angelou – she passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 86.

Maya Angelou’s Works

Maya Angelou wrote more than 30 books in a wide range of genres. Her first published work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), has become an enduring classic, a seminal work that has continued to resonate with generations of readers. Her other autobiographical works explored her experiences and spiritual growth, particularly during her years in Ghana. Angelou wrote several volumes of poetry that were notable for their emotion, lyricism, and insightful meditation on the human condition.

Angelou’s plays and musicals, which she wrote and performed, embody the same grit and resilience of spirit that informed her literature. In 1976, for example, she won an Emmy for her performance in the TV production of Caged Bird, based on her first autobiographical work. Angelou’s verse and plays also reflect her close ties with African American culture. Angelou’s written works frequently challenge stereotypes about race and gender, addressing them with intelligence and grace.

In her books, Angelou explored themes that have also informed her poetry, including racism, identity, and self-worth. In contrast to some literature that is overly dark, Angelou’s work portrays negativity without being dismal. She has been credited with helping to redefine the autobiographical genre with her candid and lively assessments of her own life, while still allowing her readers to glean wisdom from her mistakes.

Angelou wrote several books that were specifically geared toward young readers. She wrote them in her signature lyrical voice, imparting her wisdom in stories that were designed to inspire a younger audience. Angelou shared her love of literature with young people through her work, writing about literature and teaching with inspiring enthusiasm.

Angelou’s works not only reflected her own life experiences, but also those of other African American women, including the experiences of mothers, wives, and sisters. Her writing was often infused with a sense of respect for the bonds of family, which was evident in her warmth, empathy, and compassion. The themes of self-knowledge, faith, and justice permeate her works, which continue to speak to people of all generations.

Maya Angelou’s Impact

Maya Angelou’s writing and activism have had a huge impact on the African American community and on society as a whole. Her work inspired others to become involved in the civil rights movement and to fight against oppression and racism. Her words of activism served as a rallying cry for individuals to recognize the power and potential that can come from standing up for what is right.

Angelou was an unflinching advocate for civil rights and social justice, and her work was an inspiration for many. She championed many causes, particularly those of African-Americans and women, urging the world to become a better place for everyone. Her words and deeds showed people that it is possible to rise above the challenges of life and to achieve success and greatness through education, hard work, and perseverance.

Despite the deep racism that she experienced in her life, Angelou refused to be limited by her circumstances and insisted on living her life to the fullest. Her life was one of courage and strength in the face of adversity. Her work has been an inspiration to countless people around the world, showing them that they too can live their dreams, no matter the challenges they may face.

Angelou’s influence extended far beyond the realm of literature and activism. She was a mentor to many people, offering guidance and wisdom to those who sought it. Her presence and impact have endured long after her passing, as her work continues to speak to people around the world.

Angelou was an early pioneer in the world of writing and the arts, paving the way for future African American authors and artists. Her contributions to literature and civil rights have served as a model for generations of individuals. Her legacy of excellence, activism, and inspiration will continue to be felt by many.

Personal Life

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, as Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. She was raised by her grandmother in rural Arkansas, a place that would later deeply influence her writing. Angelou used her childhood experiences to shape her work and foster a deep appreciation for African American culture and literature.

Later in life, Angelou found love and companionship with the South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make, whom she married in 1961. Their union was short-lived, lasting less than a year. Angelou never married again but she remained close with her friends and family throughout her life.

Angelou’s humanitarian activities and global presence kept her very busy over the years. She was an active member of numerous civil rights organizations, such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, the Hadassah Society, and the National Council of Negro Women. Angelou was also an advocate for the victims of apartheid in South Africa, visiting the country several times.

Angelou had a unique ability to connect with people from all walks of life. She was a beloved speaker and a powerful performer, whether she was singing, speaking, or reading her famous poems. Her influence and her wisdom were evident in her activism and in her writings, which are still celebrated today.

Honors and Awards

Maya Angelou was honored and revered in the United States and around the world throughout her lifetime. In 1993, President Bill Clinton asked her to compose an original piece of writing to commemorate his inauguration. In 2011, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, an honor that recognizes an individual’s extraordinary efforts to enhance the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Angelou was also the recipient of numerous other honors, including the Lincoln Medal, the National Medal of Arts, and the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. In 2014, Angelou was posthumously inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame.

Due to the immense success of her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), she earned recognition and respect around the world as a powerful voice in literature and activism. Angelou also enjoyed a successful and prolific career in the arts, becoming an accomplished actress, singer, and producer.

In addition to her many awards, Angelou also held a string of esteemed academic appointments, becoming the first African American woman to serve as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Her wisdom and knowledge continues to be celebrated through her work and through the many students, writers, and performers that she has inspired.


Maya Angelou’s legacy lives on through her work and through the many people whose lives she has touched. Her writing is an enduring testament to her life and struggles, but also to her strength, resilience, and optimism. Her influence and impact will continue to be felt in the world of literature, activism and the arts.

Angelou’s impact on African American culture and literature has proven to be profoundly significant. Her works were modern classics that encapsulated the struggles and triumphs of African Americans and challenged readers to view the world in new and meaningful ways. Her work also stands out for its lyrical quality and for its ability to communicate ideas in powerful and emotionally charged ways.

Angelou’s legacy will continue to live on in her books, her films, her plays and her inspiring speeches. Her words have become the soundtrack of struggle and hope for many African Americans and for people around the world. Angelou’s work continues to be embraced by generations of readers and her life and legacy continue to be an inspiration for many.

Though she may be gone, her words remain with us in printed form and through the countless people whose lives she touched. Angelou’s life and legacy will continue to serve as an inspiring reminder of the power of the human spirit.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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