Maya Angelou, the award-winning author, poet, and civil-rights icon, has died at age 86. She was found by her caretaker on Wednesday morning, and had recently been struggling with health problems. Angelou had to cancel a recent appearance at an event in her honor. She had received more than 50 honorary degrees, and was the author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the 1969 novel about growing up in the Jim Crow South. Angelou was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2010 and held the Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University. Angelou was born in St. Louis on April 4, 1928, as Marguerite Ann Johnson. She had far from an uneventful childhood: raped at age 7 or 8 by her mother’s boyfriend. Angelou went on to a successful career not only as a writer, but was also nominated for a Tony for Look Away in 1973, and she played Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in the television slavery epic Roots. She had multiple romances, including South African civil-rights activist Vusumzi L. Make and Paul du Feu.
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