Maya Angelou, a prolific poet and novelist, has died at the age of 86.
She was active in the Civil Rights Movement alongside the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and worked as a journalist, singer, actress who inspired the next generation of black Americans, from Oprah to President Obama.
Her most acclaimed work, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," was published in 1969 and tells her personal story of growth from a child who dealt with racism to a confident young woman.
In statement on her Facebook page, her son, Guy Johnson, said she died quietly in her home at 8 a.m.
"Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension," Mr. Johnson said. "She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."
The president and first lady Michelle Obama offered their condolences in an official statement that praised Angelou's career as "above all, a storyteller — and her greatest stories were true."
"Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya," Mr. Obama said. "With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God's children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya's day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, 'flung up to heaven' – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring."
Ms. Angelou spoke with The Washington Times' sister publication AmericanCurrentSee just weeks ago in one of her final interviews.
She touched on her Christian faith, progress on civil rights — and even the Donald Sterling controversy roiling the NBA.
Here is a portion of the interview:
Upending conventional wisdom, renowned poet Maya Angelou has cited the NBA suspension of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling as a confirmation of American racial progress in a candid new interview with American CurrentSee, a digital weekly founded by Dr. Ben Carson in partnership with The Washington Times.
"Do you realize that even 25 years ago, had [Mr. Sterling] done this, there would be nothing — there would be a few heads turning, maybe?" Ms. Angelou said in her interview with American CurrentSee's executive editor, Armstrong Williams. "But do you realize that this man has been banned? With all of his money and all of his history and the white skin which covers his whole body."
"I just look and see how far we've come" toward racial equality, said the 86-year-old author and civil rights activist, who recited one of her poems at the 1993 presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton.
Viewed in the long perspective of civil rights progress, Mr. Sterling is better seen as "a throw-forward," Ms. Angelou said with a touch of humor, "not a throwback."
Last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hastily announced he was banning Mr. Sterling from the league for life and fining him $2.5 million after a recording of racist statements he made in a private telephone conversation with his girlfriend were publicly disseminated without the embattled owner's consent.
Ms. Angelou is embraced by the political left as a standard bearer of identity politics for her literary meditations on racism and sexism.
However, she is a committed Christian, and her surprising defense of Clarence Thomas' controversial 1991 nomination to the Supreme Court was widely seen as a turning point in the explosive political battle that preceded his eventual confirmation.
Ms. Angelou also touched on the horrible kidnappings in Nigeria and on her faith in the CurrentSee interview. "I'm trying to be a Christian," she told Mr. Williams. "I'm always amazed when people walk up to me and say, 'I'm a Christian.' I always think, 'Already? You've already got it?' I'm working at it. And at my age I'll still be working at 96."
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