Maya Angelou, radical activist

May 29, 2014 9:53 PM

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Maya Angelou, radical activist

Born in 1928 in Missouri but raised in Arkansas, Angelou died Wednesday after a lifetime of witnessing and documenting the social and political upheaval that swept through not just the Jim Crow South but across the world, with a literary voice so distinct and pure it was easy to parody but impossible to imitate. Angelou wrote Caged Bird in 1969 at the end of a troubled decade, during which she had devoted herself to helping liberate black Americans and watched close friends and admired colleagues cut down by assassins.

Angelou had an unparalleled ability to inspire those around her and drew some of the most significant Americans of the 20th century into her orbit. She was pals with writers like James Baldwin and Rosa Guy, musicians like Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, and had the confidence and admiration of civil r...

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