Maya Angelou, a renowned poet, actress and author, passed away Wednesday (May 28) near her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.
"She'd been very frail and had heart problems, but she was going strong, finishing a new book," Angelou's agent, Helen Brann, tells ABC News. "I spoke to her yesterday. She was fine, as she always was. Her spirit was indomitable."
Her death comes a week after she announced she would not attend the 2014 MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon, where she was to be honored, for "health reasons." She also canceled an event last month at Fayetteville, Arkansas, to recover after being hospitalized for an "unexpected ailment", NBC News reports.
Angelou, who came to literary acclaim with the 1970 memoir I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings, was a woman of many talents. While she graduated with only a high school diploma, Dr. Angelou received more than 30 honorary degrees and taught an American Studies course in Wake Forest University. She was proficient in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and West African Fanti.
Raised in the South, she flourished from poverty and struggle, eventually taking on a career in the arts that spanned 60 years. Her big break came in the 1950s, when she toured Europe as a star in the opera production Porgy and Bess. Her first album Calypso Lady was released in 1957.
Her poems deeply affected many, including film director John Singleton, who used her work in his 1993 film Poetic Justice. "We all have that one or two people in our families that just can spin a yarn, that has a whole lot to say, and holds a lot of wisdom from walking through the world and experiencing different things," Singleton told NPR. "And that's the way I see Dr. Maya Angelou. She was a contemporary of Martin Luther King, a contemporary of Malcolm X and Oprah Winfrey. She transcends so many different generations of African-American culture that have affected all of us."
Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.
— Maya Angelou (@DrMayaAngelou) May 23, 2014
The details of her cause of death have not been disclosed.