She's been the subject of six autobiographies, five books of essays, more poetry than you can shake a quill at and is one of the most decorated writers of her generation, even given America's highest civilian honor. Best known for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, she's a living legacy of literary greatness.
Angelou's long list of occupations has included pimp, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, cast-member of the musical Porgy and Bess, coordinator for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, author and member of the Harlem Writers Guild, journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization, and actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. Since 1991, she has taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she holds the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she has made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.
She was born eighty-four years ago today, and we're grateful to still have her example to learn from.