Millions around the world mourned the loss of poet, orator and sage Maya Angelou when she passed away on May 28 at 86-years-old after a remarkable life that included important roles in both civil rights and the arts. The woman who touched many, will be commemorated this weekend in a memorial service that is expected to draw the likes of first lady Michelle Obama, former president Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey as well as family and friends.
Angelou is being honored as a renaissance figure and one of the 20th century’s most famous black writers at a private memorial service, which is scheduled for later Saturday morning at Wake Forest University.
Maya Angelou was born into poverty and segregation. She rose to become an accomplished actress, singer, dancer, and writer. She never graduated from college, however she taught for more than 30 years at the private North Carolina university, where she was regularly addressed as Dr. Angelou out of respect for all the honorary degrees she’s received.
She forged friendships with many famous figures from the likes of Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey.
Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and San Francisco. She began writing poetry by age 9, giving birth as a single mother at age 17, and becoming San Francisco’s first black streetcar conductor. She even had a past as a dancer at a strip joint, garnered career advice from singer Billie Holiday, and shared the stage with comic Phyllis Diller. She wrote music and plays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in the 1970’s TV miniseries “Roots” and danced alongside Alvin Ailey.
Angelou garnered respect and admiration with her deep and sonorous voice, describing herself as a poet in love with “the music of language.” She recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history, “On the Pulse of Morning,” when Clinton began his first term in 1993. She inspired many around the world and became a mentor to Winfrey before she became a talk show host.
Late Poet Maya Angelou Memorial Service Draws Big Names