(CBC)Celebrated American poet, author and activist Maya Angelou, the literary force known for her autobiographical book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, has died at the age of 86.
Wake Forest University, where she had served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982, and Angelou’s literary agent, Helen Brann, confirmed her passing Wednesday.
No cause of death was immediately announced, but Brann noted that Angelou had been in frail heath for some time.
Rising from a poor upbringing in rural Arkansas to become an American icon widely considered a national treasure, Angelou was a poet, author, performer, educator and civil rights activist.
Published in 1969, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings vaulted her into fame and made her one of the first African-American women to pen a bestselling book.
She was also the poet chosen for former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993 and her original composition for the day, On the Pulse of Morning, also become a bestseller.
Over her lifetime, she was honoured with more than 30 honorary degrees.
Recent poor health
On Friday, Major League Baseball announced that Angelou, who was to be honoured at this week’s 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon in Houston, had withdrawn due to undisclosed “health reasons.”
The event is typically held before the league’s annual Civil Rights Game.
She had also cancelled attending an event in Arkansas, citing her recovery from an “unexpected ailment” that had sent her to hospital.
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