Maya Angelou, Acclaimed Writer and Poet, Dies at 86

ABC News' Susan Saulny looks back at her interview the woman who some call "the voice of a generation."
15:29 | 05/28/14

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Transcript for Maya Angelou, Acclaimed Writer and Poet, Dies at 86
This is a special room. Lift up guy that on this date breaking for you. Give birth again to the dream. Women children men take it into the palms of your hands. -- On the -- of this new day you may have the grace to look up and out. -- -- -- -- And -- your brother's face. Your country. And face up today. Very simply. With hope. Good morning. Hailed for her poetry and a landmark memoir Mya Angelou dead today at age 86 she was one of the most -- the first African American women. Able to publicly discuss her personal life. Not the boys of a generation but many hello I'm Michelle Franzen in New York born -- in Arkansas. A victim of childhood -- in a single mother seen at nightclubs to earn a living my Angelou became a global sensation. As a singer poet and author ABC's Lindsey Davis has this appreciation of an American icon the woman who -- so many about the power of words. -- -- is my favorite place to be. And known ME -- them on names it looked alike in I'm open to present from a strained. Opening the -- dollars was pulling the written -- the unexpected gift. Out of the -- of history's shame up from a -- that's rooted in pain not only words of her poetry. They might as well be lines ripped from the pages of her life story. -- on -- -- did in fact rise as a writer dancer and actress. But perhaps most significantly as an educator she -- the world about the power of words. I wrote this -- -- every human being -- She was raised by her grandmother in Arkansas about 25 miles away from a town called hope asks her to her -- At seven years old she was raped by her mother's boyfriend she told on him and he was subsequently killed. The event -- her to stop speaking for five and a half years. I had -- but I refuse to use it. Yeah. It's time. And -- standing -- Song -- -- But once she opened her mouth hurt -- became the ten of a skillful poet she said poetry cured her mutant X. On the -- -- her teens and early twenties dancing her writing had a similar grace and soul that moved people. She wrote several autobiographies. Short stories and collections of poetry. Including all God's children -- traveling issues. The heart of a woman and I know why the caged bird -- but in 1993. -- president Bill Clinton's request. -- Shillue road opponent for his inauguration. Lift up guys -- this date breaking for you give birth again into the dream. Women children men take it into the palms of your hand. She combined her rich tenor with her wisdom you and became a sculptor of words -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- See. Working men. It's going to be. And we are joined now by ABC's Susan Solomon who recently sat down with -- -- for a long interview. Susan whether she was singing as we just saw there are speaking give us an idea about your time with doctor actually -- spending an afternoon speaking with her. Well I have to say the shelling was one of the pleasures of my career so far to be able to spend the day at her house. -- she greeted us with a warm smile and just radiated. Energy and joy even though she was clearly quite weak at the time. She used an oxygen -- that she could get out for the entirety of our 45 minute interview. And if you watch some of that -- I think we'll have some clips you can tell that she has the spirit that. -- she wouldn't let bad knees or go -- breath and really keep her from using that voice that. As Lindsey's piece showed she discovered at such a young age. -- -- live in a beautiful house and -- want us to see her garden she was very proud of for plants and her patio. And of all the pictures and memories of and family occasions that she had their issues. And remembered as a poet and an author but I think she would want us to remember her today and in totality for all the things that she was a great mother -- teacher. -- social justice crusader. And she was really good about sharing all of those aspects of her life and what she had -- whether through hardship you -- also there to discuss the book she wrote about her mom. And you asked about a pivotal moment in her early life let's take a listen. When she told you I think you're the best woman -- greatest she's a baby -- demanding. I think you're the greatest from the -- have been met and our thoughts. Suppose she's -- Suppose I'm going to be found that -- Admitted that love and respect was mutual. Doctor -- was overcome while reading a passage about her -- its final moments. But there's never been in human greeted -- that -- a mother of the young and don't. -- -- -- -- -- -- think about the words just exchanged between Mya -- and her mother how much. What's her mother her strengths even later in life. -- she was everything and what really struck me about reading her last book about her mom and talking -- if this is someone she could have had a great amount of resentment for. Her mother center way -- only three. The -- with the grandmother she could have harbored a lifelong. Sort of animosity toward her mother for sending her away but she didn't she understood. But her mother knew her grandmother would do a better job raising her at that point in life. And she said her mother wasn't good with young children but she was the best mother of a young adult that anyone could ever have and when they reunited when she was a young adult. Their relationship just took off and was beautiful and she'd be king my has rock for the rest of her life. A very powerful that also leaves me to the next. Sort of clip that I want to run from your interview doctor actually spoke to you about forgiveness and why it was so important let's listen. -- -- -- It's forgiveness it's the greatest. Gift you can give yourself. It's not for the other person. I read these. The man. Some mining care. I don't trade him around. And not -- You must forgive its -- you don't -- We've heard a little bit about what she had to endure learn this lesson did she speak to you about that. She did she did she told me she thought courage was the greatest of all the virtues and right there along with forgiveness. There are -- number of people that she forgave in her life her mother was one and also. The person who raped her at -- very young age and a boyfriend later in life who beat her almost to death. But you know as she explains forgiveness is good for your own soul as well as for other people and I know -- -- so many other people have tried to take that lesson for her from her. You know quote -- -- a lot in the obituaries this morning and all the words that she gave us she said quote I have no modesty but I do praise for humility. An appropriately poetic sentiment that come across to you when he visited. Oh absolutely you know one of the things that she did. Before our crew packed up and left her house was going to closet. And get books for all of us and she signed personal notes to each and every one of us the camera man was found and the person -- the delighting my producer. And she she called each one of us to her individual -- said what is your name and then she wrote a special message in her book. The latest flick for each of us and that was the sort of thing that makes you feel like while you know she's such a warm and humble person. That was just above and beyond. Overall she was just as a spectacular host even in her weak and feeble condition she's she didn't let that stop. The warmth and energy and a certain joy from just radiating through and it was it was a beautiful thing to see. So with the interview along with the book you also had another treat -- singer before she made her name. He -- -- about that got a -- let's listen. Before she found her voice as an activist and author doctor Angelo had a different passion some of. As a surprise to know that you're calypso singer a dancer and famous line yes exactly what he as -- -- goes Moscoso -- -- And could you give us a sample of -- your favorite songs from those days -- -- it's sung. Yes we'd love to hear as you know it could -- -- yes. Commits them. Miller and children and ten in this zone and -- -- -- -- Dolan drops ammo and and Jones mountains none -- -- -- candidates and I don't know. -- -- -- Then Manning blows everything and tell him and tell us bad again don't let -- know he's looking man. All it -- think it's. That son -- and be viewed as. -- -- What a special moment of course than what president she had. When -- singing at the first time around and even -- think that time as a performer set the stage for her life as a writer. Yet it still makes me -- just hearing that -- because she remembered every that we didn't plan on this it was is that something that brought -- -- let's see maybe she'll sing that song. And she remembered every word she hit every note. It was -- the spectacular moment. I think she gained -- Orton a certain sort of presents from being on stage. That served her for the rest of her career and and she really learned during those years I think to project her voice. Literally and in this particular sense and and those years in in the clubs really. Helped develop her into the person that we came to know later in life those were incredibly important years to her and she was very proud of them. Wonderful interview and also many wonderful words that she leaves us to ABC -- -- thank you so much for sharing with us. Taking out a Winston-Salem North Carolina -- -- home where mayor Allan join us spoke just moments ago. Well good morning everyone thank you for come this morning and certainly a sad occasion today as our. Community -- allow select phenomenal long. I don't think she would mind me using her own words to describe her because I think those two words. Sum up her life a phenomenal -- She was a clearly a great resource for this city for this country and for the world. And I personally am proud and I think our citizens -- so proud she chose to live here in Winston-Salem. If -- -- a multi talented individuals who have Politico writer. Performer. And -- citizen of our city. I've been -- -- jobs where it's our land revert powerful voice and if you ever with -- you know she had a very strong powerful voice. But she -- their voices to -- is that she believed him. Such as ensuring social justice. Prevention of domestic violence and supporting black theater. Larry Leon Hamlin who fanned out on black fear a possible told me and told others on many occasions that was my Angela who supported him -- -- first year as he began the national blasted one really. Help to ensure its success here in Winston side. And just last year doctor -- -- -- launch and that I attended which the kicked off efforts to create a black Gator hall of fame here -- site and we certainly hope that effort continues on. And ended -- Angeles lived here since 1981 when she became the we're levels prefectural professor at American studies at Wake Forest University. And we remember so proud as we watched her -- her poem on the pulse of morning that president Clinton's inauguration in nineteen 93. Your time here is my honor to have you heard -- city. Proclamation ending a streak in her honor resolution. The City Council. Oliver eightieth birthday party that we hit -- -- Internet celebration we recognized forensic -- daughter of the city and a great resource for our community. We have ever win phenomenal woman read about students that school of the arts with -- -- of state university this morning. There are other tangible examples across our city -- that will be here for -- that rule help us to remember all that will never forget her but these -- some. Tangible examples. Then my -- blood -- -- medical center of course bears her name and this the great. Visual reminder of her commitment to women's health issues. Agree with the sad state university on that campus system Mya Angelo institute for the improvement a child and family tolerant and -- education. Again calls that -- bill felt so strongly in. So clearly today we grieve her desk our community the nation -- in the world. But I think most importantly we are going to celebrate her life. We celebrate this wonderful woman. Her work as in -- all of us and one way rather and it will continue to admit. And it's clear timidity that the world is a much better place that calls. Life and work of -- by Angela. Thank you. That was Winston-Salem. Mayor Allen joins remarking. How much like -- he calls the daughter of their city -- shall live and thanking her for being such a great citizen -- poet and author. For America this has been an ABC news digital special report for more on the life and work of my eyes glued download the ABC news happened star this story. For exclusive updates on the go for now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York will get my -- -- the last word. And Matt Powell. To -- all on -- time. Love to hand back no. I will -- -- -- -- See. What is and is gonna be.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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