Maya Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., her publicist confirms. She was 86.
Angelou was to be honored with the Beacon of Life Award at a luncheon in Houston May 30. However, she was forced to withdraw from the event at the last minute. "An unexpected medical emergency caused me the greatest disappointment of having to cancel my visit to the Major League Baseball Civil Rights Game ceremony," she wrote on Facebook. "I am so proud to be selected as its honoree. However, my doctors told me it would be unadvisable for me to travel at that time. My thanks to Robin Roberts for speaking up for me and thank you for all your prayers. I am each day better."
Guy B. Johnson addressed his mother's death via Angelou's Facebook fan page Wednesday. "Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension," he said. "She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."
Angelou was born on Apr. 4, 1928. In addition to being a celebrated author and poet, she was an accomplished actor, singer, songwriter, dancer, playwright, historian, director, civil rights activist and teacher. In fact, Angelou received more than 30 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
After dropping out of school in California at age 14, Angelou became the San Francisco's first African-American female cable car conductor. She returned to high school to get her diploma, and a few weeks after graduation, she gave birth to a son. Angelou supported her new family by working as a waitress.
Angelou toured Europe in the mid-1950s with the opera production Porgy and Bess, and in 1957, she recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. The following year, Angelou become a part of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York and also played a queen in The Blacks, an off-Broadway production.
Fluent in six languages, Angelou's work spans five decades. In the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked Angelou to serve as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
She also worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. During that time, Angelou wrote her most popular—and perhaps her most controversial—book to date. The coming-of-age autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was the first in a seven-volume series. In that memoir, she recalled being raped by her mother's boyfriend as a child and revealed how she overcame the childhood trauma.
Decades later, Angelou wrote a poem for President Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration. Her original composition, "On the Pulse of Morning," became a million-seller. It resulted in a Grammy award.
A longtime friend of Oprah Winfrey, Angelou won two other Grammy awards and was nominated for a Tony Award. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.
Angelou was one of the most inspiring poets of her generation, and her quotes will live on for years to come. "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel," she once said. Angelou tweeted for the last time May 23, telling her followers, "Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."