Reuters) – Institutions as diverse as the New York Public Library and Major League Baseball paid homage on Friday to African-American poet and author Maya Angelou, who died in her North Carolina home this week at the age of 86.
The New York Public Library opened an exhibit featuring letters between Angelou and civil rights activist Malcolm X, the handwritten manuscript to her groundbreaking memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and school assignments dating back to 1937.
“We’re hoping that by looking at this, people will see a broader scope of her hopes of her accomplishments but also her concerns and her interests,” said Mary Yearwood, a curator at the library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Also on Friday, Major League Baseball will show a video featuring Angelou as part of its planned Civil Rights Game festivities in Houston, league spokesman Steven Arocho said. The video, filmed last week at her home, shows Angelou accepting one of MLB’s Beacon Awards, given to people whose actions have been emblematic of the civil rights movement.
Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. During a traumatic childhood, she was rendered mute for six years. At a young age, she began the autobiography that chronicled the first 17 years of her life and covered the racism she faced in the 1930s and ’40s. The book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” was ultimately published in 1969.
She changed her name to Maya Angelou while working as a singer and dancer. She also worked as an actor, with credits that included a role in the ground-breaking television mini-series “Roots” and she wrote the script and score for the movie “Georgia, Georgia.” She was a Grammy winner for three spoken-word albums.
In 1993, she read her poem, “On the Pulse Of Morning,” at the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton, who called it “electrifying.”
Angelou, who never went to college, collected more than 30 honorary degrees.
Friday’s events honouring Angelou’s eclectic life followed a public memorial service held at the Mount Zion Baptist church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, where she was a longtime member.
Angelou’s grandson, Collin Johnson, spoke at the service.
“She had a way. How do you describe someone in one word?” Johnson told the church gathering which was monitored a local TV feed. “How do you tell them how she made you feel because she made you feel different things?”
On Friday, the family of the author, known for her lyrical prose and regal speaking voice, was still arranging details of her funeral service. Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where Angelou had worked for three decades, was still developing its plan to honour her, said spokeswoman Katie Neal.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; editing by Daniel Grebler and David Gregorio)