In Memoriam: Celebrating The Life of Poet Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. It wasn’t until 1970, when she was 41, that she became an author.
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Before Angelou became a published author, she was a dancer. As a young single mother she sang and danced in nightclubs and was noticed by a theater group. Angelou's role in Porgy and Bess allowed her to tour 22 countries in the 1950s.
Michael Ochs Archives
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Angelou played Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in the landmark 12-hour ABC show "Roots", which aired for eight consecutive nights in 1977. Based on Alex Haley's best-selling novel, "Roots" followed 100 tumultuous years and several generations of the author's African ancestors.
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Angelou delivered the inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the swearing-in of President Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993. Angelou and Clinton both spent some of their formative years in Arkansas.
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Maya Angelou is pictured at the 36th Annual Grammy Awards, where she took home an award in the Spoken Word category for her poem "On the Pulse of Morning,” which she read for President Bill Clinton's inauguration. Angelou would go on to win two other Grammys in the same category.
Moneta Sleet, Jr.—Ebony Collection/Getty Images
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On December 20, 2000, President Bill Clinton, gave Angelou the National Medal of Arts, highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the U.S. government, at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.
Stephen Jaffe—AFP/Getty Images
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At the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Angelou paid tribute to civil rights pioneers Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democrats for challenging the all-white state delegation in 1964. Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the civil rights movement.
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Commencement speaker Angelou smiles after receiving her honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, as she greets Lehigh University President Dr. Gregory C. Farrington at Murray H. Goodman Stadium on May 23, 2005. Angelou held a lifetime professorship at Wake Forest and collected honorary degrees from around 50 schools and colleges.
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Angelou and Oprah Winfrey share laughs during the last taping of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” on May 17, 2011 in Chicago.
Charles Rex Arbogast—AP
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President Barack Obama kisses Angelou after awarding her the 2010 Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011.
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