Poet and essayist Maya Angelou died Wednesday at the age of 86, her publisher, Random House, has confirmed.
Winston-Salem, N.C., Mayor Allen Joines told WFMY News 2 that Angelou’s caregiver found her dead in her home Wednesday morning.
Angelou is best known for her award-winning writing, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Angelou was a high school dropout who went on to become a professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
QUOTES: 13 of Maya Angelou’s best quotes
She was an American Study herself. “I have created myself,” she told USA TODAY in 2007, “I have taught myself so much.”
Aneglou defied simple labels. She was a walking list of careers and passions: in addition to her books, she was an actress, director, playwright, composer, singer and dancer. And if that wasn’t enough, she once worked as a madam in a brothel and as the first female and first black street car conductor in San Francisco.
She was best known for the first of her six memoirs, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), still widely read in schools. She described being raped at 7 and becoming an unwed mother at 17. (Her son, Guy Johnson, a poet and novelist, is her only immediate survivor.)
Her formal education ended in high school. But she was awarded more than 30 honorary degrees from colleges. She insisted on being called “Dr. Angelou.”