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Maya Angelou dead; poet and civil rights activist was 86

Maya Angelou attends the memorial celebration for folk

Maya Angelou attends the memorial celebration for folk icon Odetta at Riverside Church in Manhattan on Feb. 24, 2009. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Astrid Stawiarz

Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has died, according to local media reports. She was 86.

Angelou was found dead by her caretaker in her home in Winston-Salem, the town's mayor said.

Angelou's family released a statement on Wednesday saying she had died in her home early Wednesday morning. "Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension," read the statement by her son, Guy Johnson. "She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace."

Angelou recently canceled a scheduled appearance for May 30 to receive a "Beacon of Life Award" at the 2014 MLB Beacon Lunch. She reportedly canceled due to health problems.

A lauded poet, Angelou also wrote seven autobiographies, three books of essays, as well as being credited on plays, movies and television shows. Her first autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," her tale of growing up in Jim Crow South, was published in 1969, and her final book, "Mom & Me & Mom" was published last year.

Angelou received over 50 honorary degrees in her lifetime and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2010.

She was born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, but was sent to live with a relative in Arkansas after her father's death when she was three years old. She gave birth to her only child, a son, at age 16, and she detailed the life of a single mother in later autobiographies.

In 2013, she told The Daily Beast that "everything that's crossed my mind, I've tried a little bit.


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