Poet, writer, and actress Maya Angelou passed away today, May 28, at the age of 86. She was a national treasure and the voice of a generation, but her work far exceeded a time and a place. Her words conveyed her experience as a woman and an African-American, and millions cherished her written works.
In honor of Angelou's beautiful life, here are 11 amazing facts about the woman who wielded her pen in ways we won't soon forget.
1. She was granted 30 honorary doctoral degrees.
That made her "Dr. Angelou," 30 times over, to you. It is said that she preferred to be called "Dr. Angelou" by those outside of her circle of friends and family.
2. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968, her 40th birthday.
She is forever linked to another great civil rights crusader in a uniquely numerical way.
3. She held a variety of different jobs during her lifetime.
Angelou was once a fry cook, a prostitute and a nightclub performer.
4. She recited her famed poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration.
Her recitation marked the first time a poet read at the event since Robert Frost did so for JFK all the way back in 1961.
5. She was Tony nominated.
Also an actress, Angelou was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the 1973 production of Look Away.
6. She won three Grammys.
She received her gold statues for her spoken word works.
7. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000.
Awarded by Congress, this is the highest award given for artistic achievement.
8. She was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
This prestigious award is the highest civilian honor one can receive, and she received it from President Obama. It is given to those who make contributions to the interests of the United States.
9. She was given the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1994.
This woman was seriously decorated, wasn't she? We understand why! This award recognizes achievements of African-Americans.
10. Her parents split when she was young.
She understood what it was like to come from a broken home, as she and her brother Bailey lived with their paternal grandmother in Arkansas after their parents separated.
11. She stopped speaking for five years.
She was raped by her mother's boyfriend and her uncle killed the perpetrator. She was so traumatized by the event that she was mute for five years.