By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
Maya Angelou, an internationally recognized poet and civil rights leader, passed away peacefully at the age of 86 on Wednesday. She first became known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a brutally honest autobiography (personally written life story) about overcoming poverty and racism with personal strength and grace.
Angelou participated in the Civil Rights Movement, working alongside famous African-American leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X for equal treatment of all races. Their efforts raised cultural awareness and resulted in laws that protect people from unfair discrimination.
Many of her works are considered a defense of black culture, but they also embrace a theme of including all races and identities equally, like Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning”. In fact, she was called to read this poem at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, becoming the first poet to make an inaugural reading since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.
Her talents went beyond writing, as well, as Angelou was a teacher, actor, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. This multi-talented woman won dozens of awards and honors, including Grammys for her spoken word albums, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the National Medal of Arts in 2000, as well as nominations for the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award.
Images courtesy of Random House.