Maya Angelou, author of 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' died at her home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning. She was 86.

Angelou (whose named is pronounced AHN-zhe-lo) initially grew to prominence due to her stark depiction of life in the Jim Crow South, as detailed in her memoir 'Caged Bird' and its five sequels. In 1993 she delivered the inaugural prayer, called 'On the Pulse of Morning,' at President Bill Clinton's swearing-in. In 2011 President Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations's highest civilian award.

"She'd been very frail and had heart problems, but she was going strong, finishing a new book," said Helen Brann, Angelou's agent. "I spoke to her yesterday. She was fine, as she always was. Her spirit was indomitable."

Angelou's son, Guy Johnson, also released a statement:

Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love," Angelou's son Guy Johnson said in a statement.

Along with being a writer, Angelou was a confidant to presidents and celebrities, the recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees, a civil rights activist and, despite a life that was filled with some great suffering, an optimist. As one of her more famous quotes goes, "You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot—it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive."

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