American author and poet Maya Angelou, who is best known for her groundbreaking autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," has died at age 86 in North Carolina, her publisher confirmed on Wednesday.
The prolific African-American writer penned more than 30 books, won numerous awards, and was honored last year by the National Book Awards for her service to the literary community.
"Dr. Angelou has passed in Winston-Salem," said Sally Marvin, of Random House.
No other details were immediately available.
Angelou provided eloquent commentary on race, gender and living life to its fullest in poems and memoirs. Her latest work "Mom & Me & Mom," about her mother and grandmother and what they taught her, was released last year.
"She was beyond simply being a writer of autobiography and poetry. I think she transcended the idea of writing and using writing as a transcendence medium to further the individual," Harold Augenbraum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, told Reuters.
"She was an extraordinary symbol in the United States of what can accomplished using the arts," he added.
Wake Forest University also mourned the loss of Angelou.
"Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest, where she served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982," the university said in a statement.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou's family and friends during this difficult time."
It added that details about a campus memorial service will be announced at a later date.
"I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings," a coming-of-age story in a hostile society in the American South in the 1930s and '40s that deals with racism and rape, is considered an American classic.
In addition to her many books, she was a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums. She had a home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she was a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University. ------------------ SIDEBAR VIDEO: Maya Angelou, one of America's most celebrated poets, novelists and civil-rights activists has passed away. Angelou, who served on two Presidential committees and was awarded numerous awards, was 86 years old. (May 28) ------------------ Reuters **********************************
The night has been long, The wound has been deep, The pit has been dark, And the walls have been steep. Under a dead blue sky on a distant beach, I was dragged by my braids just beyond your reach. Your hands were tied, your mouth was bound, You couldn't even call out my name. You were helpless and so was I, But unfortunately throughout history You've worn a badge of shame. I say, the night has been long, The wound has been deep, The pit has been dark And the walls have been steep. But today, voices of old spirit sound Speak to us in words profound, Across the years, across the centuries, Across the oceans, and across the seas. They say, draw near to one another, Save your race. You have been paid for in a distant place, The old ones remind us that slavery's chains Have paid for our freedom again and again. The night has been long, The pit has been deep, The night has been dark, And the walls have been steep. The hells we have lived through and live through still, Have sharpened our senses and toughened our will. The night has been long. This morning I look through your anguish Right down to your soul. I know that with each other we can make ourselves whole. I look through the posture and past your disguise, And see your love for family in your big brown eyes. I say, clap hands and let's come together in this meeting ground, I say, clap hands and let's deal with each other with love, I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference, Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts, Let us come together and revise our spirits, Let us come together and cleanse our souls, Clap hands, let's leave the preening And stop impostering our own history. Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge, Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation, Courtesy into our bedrooms, Gentleness into our kitchen, Care into our nursery. The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain We are a going-on people who will rise again. And still we rise.