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Maya Angelou, acclaimed writer, dies

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Charles Dharapak/AP

(Read caption) Maya Angelou received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

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Acclaimed author Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86.

Angelou’s work spanned the genres of poetry, nonfiction, theater, television, and movies. Her 1969 autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” is one of her most well-known.

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The author was born as Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Mo. After a difficult childhood, she held a series of jobs, including cook, streetcar conductor, and being in charge of a brothel, as she brought up her son, whom she had given birth to at the age of 17.

She later teamed up with dancer Alvin Ailey to perform and had a solo dance and singing act as well. She was also part of a touring production of the musical “Porgy and Bess.”

Angelou was a civil rights activist and was a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the first president of which was Martin Luther King. She published “Bird” in 1969.

Her other written works include the 1974 autobiography “Gather Together in My Name,” the 1986 autobiographical work “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes,” the 1971 Pulitzer Prize-nominated poetry collection “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie,” and the 2013 autobiography “Mom & Me & Mom.”

She wrote the screenplay for the 1972 movie “Georgia, Georgia” and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for the play “Look Away.” She also acted in the acclaimed miniseries “Roots,” which was released in 1977, and received an Emmy nomination for her performance.

Angelou read an original work, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton and the recording of “Morning,” along with two other spoken-word albums, netted her three Grammy Awards. She later directed the 1998 film “Down in the Delta.”

She was awarded the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom and received an honorary National Book Award in 2013.