Legendary author, poet and civil rights advocate Maya Angelou dies

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Author and poet Maya Angelou, who rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page, has died. She was 86.

Wake Forest University announced Angelou's death in a news release Wednesday.

She gained acclaim for her first book, her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," making her one of the first African-American women to write a best-seller.

In 1998, she directed the film "Down in the Delta" about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta.

She was the poet chosen to read at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. She wrote and read an original composition, "On the Pulse of Morning," which became a million-seller.

Angelou was scheduled to be in Kansas City next month at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Executives there are calling her death a huge loss for the world.

She performed at the Kauffman Center on several occasions and was always embraced with thunderous applause from her adoring KC fans.

Kristin Smithson with the Kauffman Center released a statement Wednesday saying:

"Our thoughts are with the loved ones of Maya Angelou upon the sad news of her passing. The renowned poet and author touched the lives of so many throughout her inspiring career."

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