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Poet, Educator and Civil Rights Advocate Maya Angelou, 86, dies

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WINSTON-SALEM — Maya Angelou, writer of the classic autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" has died. She was 86.

Her death comes days after canceling her appearance at the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards luncheon, where she was to be honored.

We're told she was found unresponsive inside her Winston-Salem home.

Angelou was a renowned poet, historian and civil rights advocate. As an actress and screen writer, she was hailed as a trailblazer. Her script for the film Georgia was the first ever by an African American woman. It was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Angelou's literary agent and friend of 30 years said, "Maya Angelou honored me for over 35 years by asking me to be her literary agent. She gave me the gift of her friendship for all those years. One of the proudest moments of my life was when Maya called me her sister. I loved her. I remain in awe of her greatness of spirit and talent. We are all in her debt for many of her contributions to our world, but most of all her showing us by example her passion for life and the courage with which she lived it."

President Barack Obama released a statement on her passing:
When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.”

Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.

Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.

In a statement Gov. Pat McCrory said, "Dr. Maya Angelou was a giant in every endeavor she chose to devote her talents,” said Governor McCrory. “She counseled presidents and historic figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King. Yet, she’ll be remembered most for her compassion for people around the world, regardless of their station in life. Maya Angelou was a tremendous source of pride for North Carolina and her adopted state is grieving her loss.”

Wake Forest University released the following statement about Angelou's death:

"Today members of the Wake Forest University community mourn the loss of beloved poet, author, actress, civil rights activist and professor Dr. Maya Angelou.

Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest, where she served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time."

And U.S. Senator Kay Hagan released this statement:

“Today North Carolina lost one of our finest. Dr. Maya Angelou was a trailblazer, an advocate for women and civil rights, and one of the greatest literary voices of our time. She embodied courage. She spoke the truth and stood up for what was right, and in doing so she inspired others, including her students at Wake Forest University, to do the same. While our state and our country has lost a strong and powerful voice, Dr. Maya Angelou’s legacy is firmly and tightly woven into the foundation of what makes our state great. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends and the millions of people across the country who were impacted by her words and inspired by her dedication to justice and equality.”

Memorial arrangements for Angelou have not yet been released.

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