Celebrated African American poet Dr. Maya Angelou passed away at her home in Winston- Salem on May 28th at the age 86.
“A longtime North Carolina resident, Dr. Maya Angelou has inspired generations of people not only in our state but also around the world,” said Wayne Martin, executive director, North Carolina Arts Council. “A recipient of the 1987 North Carolina Award in Literature, she was celebrated as a poet and writer, but was in fact a consummate artist who brought her considerable talents to bear on an incredible range of creative endeavors. ”
Angelou was described on her website as a “global renaissance woman” who also played the role of memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. She received more than 50 honorary degrees and was Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem from 1982 until the time of her death. A statement from the University read, “Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest.”
Angelou’s 1970 book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was a huge international success, and her volumes of poetry, non-fiction, and fiction grew to include more than 30 titles. She became known to new generations when President Clinton requested that she compose a poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning” which she read at his inauguration in 1993. She served on two presidential committees, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
But long before that time, Dr. Angelou found herself in the company of some of the most groundbreaking figures of the 20th century. In the 1950s, she studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced with Alvin Ailey on television variety shows and recorded her first album, Calypso Lady. She joined the Harlem Writers Guild in New York, acted in the historic Off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks and wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom.
In the 1960s, she wrote, taught and studied in Africa, meeting Malcolm X and returning to the United States in 1964 to help him launch his new Organization of African American Unity. After his assassination, Dr. Angelou was asked by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to serve as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Dr. Angelou’s poetry collection, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die was nominated for a 1971 Pulitzer Prize, as was her screenplay for the 1972 film Georgia, Georgia—for which she also composed the score. She appeared in the 1977 television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots as well as in contemporary films, and directed her first feature film, Down in the Delta in 1996. She received a total of three Grammy Awards for her spoken word recordings.
UNC-TV will present Maya Angelou Memorial Chat
Tonight at 9 p.m.
Join UNC-TV online tonight as we commemorate one of America’s most influential and profound voices, Maya Angelou. Watch an exclusive UNC-TV interview, one of the last ever given in her Winston-Salem home, and hear behind-the-scenes stories from producers Mitch Lewis and Erika Starke-Knight. Ask questions and offer your own thoughts—all live via an online chat. We will also screen Live from Lincoln Center: Maya Angelou and Wynton Marsalis!
OVEE screenings are live, online conversations. Tonight’s event is hosted by UNC-TV, Women and Girls Lead, and PBS’ Independent Lens. Visit ovee.itvs.org to join this live online event!