Prominent public figures reacted with sadness to the death of American poet and author Maya Angelou who passed away May 28 at age 86. However it was the celebration of her legacy what stood out from their memories about her.
Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, according to CNN. She was reportedly suffering from heart problems. She was not only known as a writer, but also as an actress, singer dancer and an activist.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Oprah Winfrey and J.K. Rowling were among the prominent public figures to react to her death with sorrow but at the same time celebrating her legacy.
“Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time: a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman,” Obama, who presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2011 said. “Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things: an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller, and her greatest stories were true.”
Nancy Pelosi posted a message on her Twitter that read: “Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.” –Maya Angelou, a truly phenomenal woman whose words will serve to lift our souls forever.”
Oprah Winfrey released a statement on her Facebook page where she posted a picture of herself with Angelou.
“I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her.”
Oprah emphasized on her strong professional preparation and continued to offer a glimpse of her personal relationship with the author. “ She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling posted a quote from Angelou: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.’ Maya Angelou – who was utterly amazing” the post read.
Also reacting to the passing of the famous writer was fellow author Tayari Jones.
“All of the writers of my generation must honor the ground broken by Dr. Maya Angelou,” she posted on Facebook. “She told a story that wasn’t allowed to be told,” Jones said. “Now, people tell all sorts of things in memoir, but when she told the truth, she challenged a taboo — not for shock value, but to heal us all.”
Angelou’s literary work included acclaimed books (such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”), poems and screenplays. But she was also known for being friends with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., worked for civil rights. She also acted on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony and a Pulitzer price. She won three Grammy’s.