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But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

Maya Angelou, one of the most remarkable voices to address life during the Jim Crow days in southern America, passed away on 28 May at her home in Winston-Salem. She was 86.

Angelou has been many things to many people: streetcar conductor, dancer, singer, single mother, writer, poet, actress, film director, civil rights activist, and friend to notable eminent Americans including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle and Barack Obama. Able to speak six languages, Angelou also worked as a magazine and newspaper editor in Cairo and as an administrative assistant in Ghana.

One of Angelou’s most notable works is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiographical work which tells of Angelou’s childhood in Arkansas and her coming-of-age as she moves  to Missouri and later to California. The style and themes of the book make it both a memoir and a work of literature, even though some took issue with the frank depictions of racism, lesbianism, and rape.

In 1993, Maya Angelou was also invited to recite her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural ceremony, becoming the second poet in history to speak at a presidential inauguration after Robert Frost.

True to her word, Maya Angelou will always be a rainbow in my cloud.