Maya Angelou: A Tribute to an Icon

Remembering the famed poet, author and activist who died at age 86.
3:18 | 05/29/14

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Transcript for Maya Angelou: A Tribute to an Icon
We lost an American giant today, Maya Angelou. Her story is epic. She was a singer, a poet, an activist, and a friend to presidents. Here is ABC's Byron Pitts. ? There is no hiding place down here ? Reporter: Maya Angelou was a rare gift, the ability to inspire with the weight -- wink and most often her words. ? I will go for F I shall go I shall see what the end is going to be ? Reporter: She became a new vice for black America in 1969 with her best-selling book "I know why the cage bird sings." The horizon leans forward offering you space to place new steps of change. Reporter: In 1993 when president Clinton asked her to read a poem at the first inauguration she was a household game. Maya Angelou! Reporter: Long before her word captured audiences it was her voice as a singer. ? I'm just a victim of circumstance ? Reporter: In her lifetime, Maya Angelou learned to speak six languages, win three grammys, write more than 30 books. She brought so much joy, having endure sew endured so much pain. At 7 she was raped by her mother's boyfriend. When she told the man was murdered. And the policeman said it looked as if he was kicked to death. I thought my voice killed him. It was my 7 1/2-year-old logic. So I stopped speaking. Reporter: She did not speak for five years. Instead spending hours in the back of this building, her grandmother's general store, Reading the classics, memorizing Shakespeare, amidst suffering in silence she found her voice. Yet there would be more suffering to come. At 16 she had a child. At 18 she ran a brothel. By 20 she was dancing in a strip joint. But soon there after the wistful word whispered buy her mother changed it all. I went to her house. She looked at me, she said, "Baby, just a minute. I want to till you something. She said I think you are the great woes most woman I ever met." I thought, "Suppose she is right? Suppose I am really somebody?" Maybe it is time for me to stop smoking, stop cursing. Because I may be somebody. Reporter: Even her name comes out of a struggle. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson, her brother stuttered and could call her Maya. Angelou was her married name, dropped the husband and kept the name. One of Maya Angelou's greatest gifts. Take the worst life can give, find good in it and tell the world. Here on the pulse of this new day, you may have the grace to look up and out, and into your sister's eyes, and into your brother's face, your country, and say simply, very simply, with hope, good morning. Announcer: The following is a

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