Who Was Maya Angelou?

Maya Angelou was an award-winning African-American poet, author, actor and civil rights activist, best known for her 1969 memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Angelou died on May 28, 2014 at age 86.

Angelou was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1971 poetry collection “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die.” In 1993, she recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. A recording of the poem won a Grammy Award. Angelou also wrote seven autobiographies, several poetry collections, and a long list of plays, movies and television shows.

Angelou was the first African-American woman to write a best-selling nonfiction book and the first to have a screenplay produced. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her 1973 play “Look Away,” and an Emmy Award for her supporting role in the 1977 television miniseries “Roots.”

During her extensive career, Angelou received dozens of honors, including two NAACP Image awards in 2005 and 2009, the National Medal of Arts in 2000, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. She also received more than 50 honorary degrees.

Before her death, Angelou donated her personal papers to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. In 2015, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in Angelou’s honor.