Home Arts & Culture Maya Angelou dies at the age of 86

Maya Angelou dies at the age of 86

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Author Maya Angelou, one of America’s leading literary voices of the last 50 years, has died at the age of 86.

Maya Angelou was best-known for her 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Maya Angelou was one of America's leading literary voices of the last 50 years

Maya Angelou was one of America’s leading literary voices of the last 50 years

It was the first of seven volumes of autobiography that traced her life from a childhood of abuse and oppression in the Deep South in the 1930s.


Raised by her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, Maya Angelou wrote about being raped by her mother’s boyfriend at the age of eight. After she told her family what had happened, the boyfriend was killed.

“I thought my voice had killed him, so it was better not to speak – so I simply stopped speaking,” she said. She remained mute for five years.

Maya Angelou later became a singer, dancer, cocktail waitress, prostitute and an actress before beginning her writing career.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which dealt with the racism and family trauma of her upbringing, spent two years on the US best-seller list.

Her career also straddled television, theatre, film, children’s books and music.

Maya Angelou’s poetry collections included Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (1971), And Still I Rise (1978), Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987), and I Shall Not Be Moved (1990).

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