Maya Angelou, Author and Poet Who Chronicled Southern Racism, Dead at 86

Maya Angelou, speaking at the Miami Book Fair International in 1986.
Maya Angelou, speaking at the Miami Book Fair International in 1986.
Miami Book Fair International

Maya Angelou, the multitalented storyteller known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

Angelou was best known as an author and a poet, but her career spanned the creative arts. She studied dance and drama as a child; performed in the opera Porgy and Bess; and recorded her first album, Calypso Lady, in 1957.

But it was as a writer that Angelou received her highest accolades. In 1993, she delivered President Bill Clinton's inaugural poem, "On the Pulse of Morning." In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.

Angelou's work chronicled the black experience in the American South, drawing from Angelou's own experiences growing up poor in rural Arkansas. Writers across the nation and across the world count her as an inspiration; her contributions made a lasting mark on the fabric of American literature.

Even here in Miami, Angelou resonates. The author made her first appearance at the Miami Book Fair International in 1986. In 1995, she dedicated the Maya Angelou Elementary School in Allapattah, a school that places an emphasis on writing.

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