Poet, author Maya Angelou dies at 86

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Author and poet Maya Angelou, who rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page, has died. She was 86.

Wake Forest University announced Angelou's death in a news release Wednesday.

She gained acclaim for her first book, her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," making her one of the first African-American women to write a best-seller.

In 1998, she directed the film "Down in the Delta" about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta.

She was the poet chosen to read at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. She wrote and read an original composition, "On the Pulse of Morning," which became a million-seller.

"Her words, her wisdom touched the world. Not just America," said Valerie Davidson, Butler University director of diversity programs.

Angelou spoke at Butler in September 2013.

"I think that she will live on forever in her literature, her films, her movies," Davidson said.

"Today, America lost one of its most original, effective and passionate voices. Dr. Maya Angelou not only spoke to us, but she spoke of us, painting a picture of our nation with words. She showed us that we can always be more than the labels and limitations others place on us. She taught that we have a duty to stand up for those among us who are treated as less," Rep. Andre Carson said in a statement. "Dr. Angelou will always be a voice for the voiceless and a champion for equality and those facing great adversity. We mourn her passing, but we celebrate her life, her work, her contributions to our nation and world. I believe she would want us to find the light in this time of sadness, and we should honor her in that way."

Indiana talk show host and psychologist Cathy Hollowell Hill spoke with Angelou earlier this month. You can listen to that interview here.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)