Angelou, who rose from poverty in Arkansas, lived many different lives. A childhood victim of sexual abuse and incest (Angelou was raped d by her mother’s boyfriend when she was seven. She later wrote about feeling guilty when the perpetrator was murdered in her landmark book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ), Angelou was a newspaper editor in Egypt and worked as a cook and a prostitute when she was a destitute single mother. She also dabbled in music and dance, performing on stage as a singer, dancer and actor and releasing an album of Calypso music.
Publishing 36 books in her lifetime, including seven autobiographies, volumes of poetry, essay collections, children’s books and even cookbooks, Ms Angelou was first introduced to literature by a teacher. Later, she struck a deal with Hallmark to write greeting cards, which was met with some criticism.
An outpouring of accolades and condolences have poured in since her death, including one from the White House press office by President Barack Obama who called Ms. Angelou “one of the brightest lights of our time—a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman” (a nod to her “Phenomenal Woman” poem). The US president noted that his sister Maya was named after Ms. Angelou. Mr. Obama had previously awarded her with the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award.
RIP Maya Angelou, who will alway be remembered as the ‘People’s Poet’.