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Maya Angelou, lyrical witness of the Jim Crow South, dies at 86

by MARGALIT FOX, New York Times News Service on May 28, 2014 10:04 AM

Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose the author’s girlhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Her death was confirmed by her longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. No immediate cause of death had been determined, but Brann said Angelou had been in frail health for some time and had had heart problems.

As well-known as she was for her memoirs, which eventually filled six volumes, Angelou very likely received her widest exposure on a chilly January day in 1993, when she delivered the inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the swearing-in of Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president, who, like Angelou, had grown up poor in rural Arkansas.

Copyright The New York Times News Service.

PHOTO:  In this Nov. 21, 2008 file photo, poet Maya Angelou smiles at an event in Washington. Angelou, author of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," has died, Wake Forest University said Wednesday, May 28, 2014. She was 86. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

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