Author and poet Maya Angelou, who rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page, has died. She was 86.
Wake Forest University announced Angelou's death in a news release Wednesday.
She gained acclaim for her first book, her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," making her one of the first African-American women to write a best-seller.
In 1998, she directed the film "Down in the Delta" about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta.
She was the poet chosen to read at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. She wrote and read an original composition, "On the Pulse of Morning," which became a million-seller.
The King Center released the following statement on the passing of Maya Angelou:
“Our nation and world have lost one of the great Renaissance women of this, or any age, Maya Angelou. Our hearts go out to her son, Guy Johnson, and to all of her family and friends. A prodigious writer, artist and thinker, Maya Angelou was also a woman of matchless compassion and an eloquent humanitarian activist and champion of the poor and oppressed of all nations. She supported Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and served the Civil Rights Movement as a fund-raiser and SCLC organizer. She was also a very close and trusted friend, to our Founder, Mrs. Coretta Scott King. The King Center was proud to present our Salute to Greatness Award to her in 1998 in recognition of her humanitarian work and contributions to society. Maya Angelou leaves a great and memorable blessing in the hearts of the millions whom she touched with her artistry; and, she leaves behind a luminous vision of hope that will inspire millions more for generations to come.”