Maya Angelou dies

Maya Angelou dies

Virago has paid tribute to writer Maya Angelou, who has died aged 86, saying she was "quite simply an indomitable force, correctly famed for her spirit and style, courage and laughter".

Angelou, whose I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was released in 1969 to great acclaim, had cancelled a recent public appearance due to ill health.

She passed away at her home in Winston-Salem in North Carolina in America yesterday (28th May), her family confirmed.

Angelou was published by Virago, an imprint of Little, Brown, in the UK. A statement released by publisher Lennie Goodings said: "Virago is saddened by the death of Maya Angelou, one of the world’s most important writers and activists. 

"She lived and chronicled an extraordinary life: rising from poverty, violence and racism, she became a renowned writer, poet, playwright, civil rights activist – working with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King - and memoirist.

"She wrote and performed a poem, On the Pulse of Morning, for President Clinton on his inauguration; she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama and been honoured by over 70 universities throughout the world.

"Maya Angelou entered our lives at Virago in 1984, when we first published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She danced, sang, talked and wrote her way straight into our hearts. She brought us a bestseller, but so much more than that. She was quite simply an indomitable force, correctly famed for her spirit and style, courage and laughter. So much laughter.

"In 2009 she wrote: 'My life has been long, and believing that life loves the liver of it, I have dared to try many things…’ She was a wonderful teacher: 'You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. .. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like… Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.'

"She did, many times over."

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was the first of seven volumes of Angelou’s autobiography, with the books covering her childhood in the American South, the Second World War and her association with King and Malcolm X, as well as her writing career. The final volume, Mom & Me & Mom, was published last year.

Born in 1928 in Missouri, Angelou also wrote children's books, cookbooks, and several volumes of poetry.

A statement on behalf of Angelou's family was posted on her Facebook page, and said: "Her [Angelou's] family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension.

"She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."

On Twitter, author J.K. Rowling called Angelou "utterly amazing", while American President Barack Obama released a statement calling her a "truly phenomenal woman" and saying her voice "helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves". President Clinton said America had "lost a national treasure".

Jonathan Ruppin, web editor at Foyles, said: "I was introduced to Maya Angelou quite early: she was a favourite of my mother. She opened my eyes to many things: to the tyranny of the powerful over the weak, to the common bonds of humanity with those whose lives were very different from my own and of how there might be beauty and hope even when all arounds seems ugliness and despair.

"Hers was a universal message and I've no doubt her lessons will be shared by many generations yet to come."