WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. —
Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Arkansas, and San Francisco. Her life included writing poetry by age 9, giving birth as a single mother by 17, and becoming San Francisco’s first black streetcar conductor. She also danced at a strip joint, sang on records, acted alongside James Earl Jones and earned a Tony nomination for her work on Broadway. She wrote music and plays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in the 1970s TV miniseries “Roots” and danced with Alvin Ailey.
Angelou also worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and lived for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met South African liberation pioneer Nelson Mandela. In 1968, she was helping the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, Tennessee, where the civil rights leader was slain on Angelou’s 40th birthday.
Her son, Guy Johnson, said Angelou’s last decade was filled with pain — the toll of her career as a professional dancer and respiratory failure. She was bound to a wheelchair and oxygen tanks. Still, she was able to write four more books, had all of her mental faculties, and died quietly in her sleep.
“There is no mourning here,” he said.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio
Associated Press Writer Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report from Columbia, South Carolina.
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