Friday, August 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Author Maya Angelou dies at 86 in North Carolina

By
From page A7 | May 29, 2014 |

NEW YORK — Maya Angelou was gratified, but not surprised by her extraordinary fortune.

“I’m not modest,” she told The Associated Press in 2013. “I have no modesty. Modesty is a learned behavior. But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out.”

Her story awed millions. The young single mother who worked at strip clubs to earn a living later danced and sang on stages around the world. A black woman born poor wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history. A childhood victim of rape, shamed into silence, eventually told her story through one of the most widely read memoirs of the past few decades.

Angelou, a Renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, died Wednesday morning at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, her son, Guy B. Johnson, said in a statement. The 86-year-old had been a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University since 1982.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace,” Johnson said.

Angelou had been set to appear this week at the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards Luncheon, but canceled in recent days citing an unspecified illness.

Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, she was unforgettable whether encountered through sight, sound or the printed word. She was an actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s and broke through as an author in 1970 with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading and made Angelou one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success. “Caged Bird” was the start of a multipart autobiography that continued through the decades and captured a life of hopeless obscurity and triumphant, kaleidoscopic fame.

The world was watching in 1993 when she read her cautiously hopeful “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made publishing history by making a poem a best-seller, if not a critical favorite. For President George W. Bush, she read another poem, “Amazing Peace,” at the 2005 Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House. Presidents honored her in return with a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. In 2013, she received an honorary National Book Award.

She called herself a poet, in love with the “sound of language,” ”the music in language,” as she explained to The Associated Press in 2013. But she lived so many lives. She was a wonder to Toni Morrison, who marveled at Angelou’s freedom from inhibition, her willingness to celebrate her own achievements. She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend’s talk show program. She mastered several languages and published not just poetry, but advice books, cookbooks and children’s stories. She wrote music, plays and screenplays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in “Roots,” and never lost her passion for dance, the art she considered closest to poetry.

“The line of the dancer: If you watch (Mikhail) Baryshnikov and you see that line, that’s what the poet tries for. The poet tries for the line, the balance,” she told The Associated Press in 2008, shortly before her 80th birthday.

Her very name as an adult was a reinvention. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and San Francisco, moving back and forth between her parents and her grandmother. She was smart and fresh to the point of danger, packed off by her family to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas. Other times, she didn’t speak at all: At age 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and didn’t talk for years. She learned by reading, and listening.

“I loved the poetry that was sung in the black church: ‘Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,’” she told the AP. “It just seemed to me the most wonderful way of talking. And ‘Deep River.’ Ooh! Even now it can catch me. And then I started reading, really reading, at about 7 1/2, because a woman in my town took me to the library, a black school library. … And I read every book, even if I didn’t understand it.”

At age 9, she was writing poetry. By 17, she was a single mother. In her early 20s, she danced at a strip joint, ran a brothel, was married, and then divorced. But by her mid-20s, she was performing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, where she shared billing with another future star, Phyllis Diller. She also spent a few days with Billie Holiday, who was kind enough to sing a lullaby to Angelou’s son, Guy, surly enough to heckle her off the stage and astute enough to tell her: “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.”

After renaming herself Maya Angelou for the stage (“Maya” was a childhood nickname, “Angelou” a variation of her husband’s name), she toured in “Porgy and Bess” and Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and danced with Alvin Ailey. She worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and lived for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met Nelson Mandela, a longtime friend; and Malcolm X, to whom she remained close until his assassination, in 1965. Three years later, she was helping King organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, Tenn., where the civil rights leader was slain on Angelou’s 40th birthday.

“Every year, on that day, Coretta and I would send each other flowers,” Angelou said of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006.

Angelou was little known outside the theatrical community until “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which might not have happened if James Baldwin hadn’t persuaded Angelou, still grieving over King’s death, to attend a party at Jules Feiffer’s house. Feiffer was so taken by Angelou that he mentioned her to Random House editor Bob Loomis, who persuaded her to write a book by daring her into it, saying that it was “nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature.”

“Well, maybe I will try it,” Angelou responded. “I don’t know how it will turn out. But I can try.”

Angelou’s musical style was clear in a passage about boxing great Joe Louis’s defeat in 1936 against German fighter Max Schmeling:

“My race groaned,” she wrote. “It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. … If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help.”

Angelou’s memoir was occasionally attacked, for seemingly opposite reasons. In a 1999 essay in Harper’s, author Francine Prose criticized “Caged Bird” as “manipulative” melodrama. Meanwhile, Angelou’s passages about her rape and teen pregnancy have made it a perennial on the American Library Association’s list of works that draw complaints from parents and educators.

“‘I thought that it was a mild book. There’s no profanity,” Angelou told the AP. “It speaks about surviving, and it really doesn’t make ogres of many people. I was shocked to find there were people who really wanted it banned, and I still believe people who are against the book have never read the book.”

Angelou appeared on several TV programs, notably the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots.” She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her appearance in the play “Look Away.” 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 won three Grammys for her spoken-word albums and in 2013 received an honorary National Book Award for her contributions to the literary community.

Back in the 1960s, Malcolm X had written to Angelou and praised her for her ability to communicate so directly, with her “feet firmly rooted on the ground.” In 2002, Angelou communicated in an unexpected way when she launched a line of greeting cards with industry giant Hallmark. Angelou admitted she was cool to the idea at first. Then she went to Loomis, her editor at Random House.

“I said, ‘I’m thinking about doing something with Hallmark,’” she recalled. “And he said, ‘You’re the people’s poet. You don’t want to trivialize yourself.’ So I said ‘OK’ and I hung up. And then I thought about it. And I thought, if I’m the people’s poet, then I ought to be in the people’s hands — and I hope in their hearts. So I thought, ‘Hmm, I’ll do it.’”

In North Carolina, she lived in an 18-room house and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University. She was also a member of the board of trustees for Bennett College, a private school for black women in Greensboro. Angelou hosted a weekly satellite radio show for XM’s “Oprah & Friends” channel.

She remained close enough to the Clintons that in 2008 she supported Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy over the ultimately successful run of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama. But a few days before Obama’s inauguration, she was clearly overjoyed. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she would be watching it on television “somewhere between crying and praying and being grateful and laughing when I see faces I know.”

Active on the lecture circuit, she gave commencement speeches and addressed academic and corporate events across the country. Angelou received dozens of honorary degrees, and several elementary schools were named for her. As she approached her 80th birthday, she decided to study at the Missouri-based Unity Church, which advocates healing through prayer.

“I was in Miami and my son (Guy Johnson, her only child) was having his 10th operation on his spine. I felt really done in by the work I was doing, people who had expected things of me,” said Angelou, who then recalled a Unity church service she attended in Miami.

“The preacher came out — a young black man, mostly a white church — and he came out and said, ‘I have only one question to ask, and that is, “Why have you decided to limit God?’” And I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been doing.’ So then he asked me to speak, and I got up and said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And I said it about 50 times, until the audience began saying it with me, ‘Thank you, THANK YOU!’”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Rich GiddensMay 28, 2014 - 2:57 pm

    What an incredible life! She's like a black version of Forest Gump or something----she just happened by chance to meet Mandela when she lived in Africa. She didn't like being mistreated and abused and stood up for herself and others! Good! I don't care if she was a Democrat or whatever----she has a greatness, dignity and strenght that transcends race-politik and she's an AMERICAN HERO. I hope Congress confers final honors on her, first by allowing her casket to remain in repose at the rontunda of the Capitol followed by a State funeral with full honors and dignitaries in attendance.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

‘Boyhood’ mature on music, moments

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

 
Mr. Clean: Dennis Regan offers friendly jokes, with a bite

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Gemstones shine at Solano County Fair

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Trifecta: ‘The Who’s Tommy’ third play in three months

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Japan Summerfest returns this month

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Solano Tea Party Patriots schedule meet

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Details limited after shooting leaves 1 with injuries

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Highway 12 to close overnight in Jameson Canyon

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
Air district calls Spare the Air alert

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

Vallejo police arrest suspect in shooting death

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Fairfield man settles suit against Raley’s

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

Stabbing victim dies in Vacaville

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Abbas seeks broad support for war crimes charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US, UN announce deal on 72-hour Gaza cease-fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

As US job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Dow plunges as multiple worries vex investors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds 2011 union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
A look at the impact of Wisconsin’s union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Union: California prison staff told to fake checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Candidate goes homeless to show economic gap

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

California ex-mayor sentenced in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Californians to see increase in health plan costs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Appellate court overturns high-speed rail rulings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Report: Secrecy enveloped Bay Bridge construction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Yosemite wildfire weakened, evacuations to end

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
See-through mice reveal details of inner anatomy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

CIA spied on Senate, internal review finds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Demoted worker shoots CEO, kills self in Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

NASA to test making rocket fuel ingredient on Mars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Investigators reach Ukraine jet wreckage site

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoons: Aug. 1, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
To err is human – but not in print

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11

Why do so many Americans support Hamas

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
Nice guy becomes House majority leader

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

Should union organizing be a civil right?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for Aug. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Aug. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My irregular monthly cycles were a symptom of cancer, not menopause

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for Aug. 1, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Aug. 1-7, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: Boseman drips with charisma as James Brown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

‘Godfather of Makeup’ Dick Smith dead at 92

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Starz’ ‘Outlander’ brings novels to life vibrantly

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Dionne Warwick knows her way to San Jose

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Entertainment calendar Aug. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
‘Sharknado 2′ whipped up storm of viewers, tweets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Chekwa taking reps with Raiders while Hayden sits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Safety Bethea finding a groove with new 49ers team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Expos fall short in 10-9 loss to Leghorns

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7

 
A’s deal Tommy Milone to Twins for Sam Fuld

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

A’s get Lester, Gomes from Red Sox for Cespedes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Another decent start for Woods at Firestone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Ravens’ Rice: His actions ‘totally inexcusable’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Dustin Johnson takes leave of absence from golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Commonwealth Games athlete convicted for assault on rival

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Lynch ends holdout, arrives at Seahawks camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Nick Watney leads PGA Barracuda Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Rich get richer: Rays’ Price traded to Tigers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Dumdumaya takes third in World Junior/Junior Olympic tourney

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

 
AP Source: Trump advances in Bills sale process

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Mudcats get 15-7 win in Auburn Classic

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

 
Phelps to compete in 4 events at US nationals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Signups for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Derrick Brooks set standard for NFL linebackers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

.

Business

Daimler launches new version of tiny Smart car

By The Associated Press | From Page: C1

 
Iliad of France makes surprise bid for T-Mobile US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

In San Francisco real estate, $1M won’t buy much

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Facebook’s Internet.org expands in Zambia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Debit overdraft fees often exceed cost of purchase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Target taps outsider as CEO for needed shakeup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9