Maya Angelou dies aged 86: celebrities react to the author's passing

American poet, author, activist, teacher and film-maker Maya Angelou has passed away at the age of 86.

Her death was confirmed by her life-long friend and literary agent Helen Brann, and although no cause of death has been confirmed, Maya was in ill health for some years.

Maya Angelou

The author, famous for her 1969 autobiography I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing, in which she described life in the America South during the Jim Crow era, died in her home in North Carolina.

In her last tweet, sent on May 23, Maya tweeted her usual words of wisdom, sharing with her 390,000 followers: "Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."

A cultural pioneer, Maya was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey after the pair met in the 1980s, and in her lifetime wrote seven memoirs, which stretched over time from WWII through to Martin Luther King Jr, with the most recent published in 2013.

Her work of poetry, Just Give Me A Cool Drink Of Water 'Fore I Diie was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1971, and in 1993 Maya recited her poetry at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

After the news of her death broke, celebrities and politicians from around the world tweeted their sorrow and respects for the 86-year-old.


Lena Dunham was quick to post online, quoting one of Maya's poems from the book Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women.

Other famous faces to add their quotes and memories of Maya included Harry Potter author J.K Rowling and Kelly Rowland.

In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, Maya spoke of her most famous work and said she wrote it because: "I had no daughters. I had a son who was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. But in reality I have lots of daughters. Black ones, white ones, Asian ones and Jewish ones and the Spanish-speaking ones."

She continued: "Sometimes I'll get a thousand pieces of mail a week from young women who think I'm wise. So they use me as a mother and I think of them as my daughters. So I thought it was time to say, 'Listen, kids, I have been here and done this. I got into this scrape and got out of it. I paid for it. I want you to know that if you take this road in the dark, to the left there's a big hole and if you're not careful you'll step in it and break your foot'."

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