Maya Angelou Dead: Acclaimed Author and Poet Dies at 86

Celebrity News May. 28, 2014 AT 9:45AM
Maya Angelou Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86. Credit: Ken Charnock/Getty Images

Maya Angelou has passed away. The acclaimed author and poet died on Wednesday, May 28, at the age of 86, her publicist confirmed to CNN

According to reports, she was found by her caretaker in her Winston-Salem, N.C. home.

Last week, there was concern about Angelou's health when she said she would be skipping the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon in Houston on May 30. She was set to be honored at the event. The MLB told attendees that Angelou would not be attending due to "health reasons."

In April, the I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings writer pulled out of another event because of her health. She was scheduled to appear at a program at the Fayetteville Public Library in Arkansas, but canceled at the last minute. 

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"I am profoundly saddened that I am unable to be with you," she wrote in a cancellation letter to the Fayetteville community. "An unexpected ailment put me into the hospital. I will be getting better and the time will come when I can receive another invitation from my state and you will recognize me for I shall be the tall Black lady smiling. I ask you to please keep me in your thoughts, in your conversation and in your prayers."

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis on April 4, 1928, Angelou would go on to become one of the most celebrated American authors of all time. In addition to her famed writing career, the late icon also directed a Hollywood film, released a studio album of her singing, acted in movies, danced with Alvin Ailey, and toured with a production of Porgy and Bess

Angelou, who holds copious honors including more than 50 honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and three Grammys, is survived by her one son, Guy Johnson, who is also a writer.

Johnson released a statement about Angelou's passing on her Facebook page. It reads, "Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."

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Angelou's death sparked an outpouring of grief from celebrities. Grey's Anatomy's Jessica Capshaw tweeted, "Maya Angelou...I am so grateful that you shared your honesty, your talent, and your craft with the world. We have been made better for it."

J.K. Rowling shared a quote of Angelou's: "'If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.' Maya Angelou - who was utterly amazing."

R&B singer Mary J. Blige mourned with a quote as well, writing, "'There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.' - Maya Angelou."

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons said, "RIP to one of the greatest women this world has ever known. Thank you Maya Angelou for all of the gifts and knowledge you gave us..."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote, "'Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise.'—Maya Angelou, a truly phenomenal woman whose words will serve to lift our souls forever."

Country singer Darius Rucker tweeted, "My heart and soul hurt today because of the passing of a true Genious Maya Angelou. Heaven has another wonderful angel walking its golden st."

Actress Jackée Harry shared, "'Nothing Can Dim The Light That Shines From Within.' R.I.P. My Dear Friend & Literary #ICON, Maya Angelou. #GoneButNeverToBeForgotten"

Oprah Winfrey, who has expressed her great admiration for her good friend Angelou in the past, released a statement on Wednesday. "I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20s," Oprah wrote. "She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds."

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