Maya Angelou, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey

In this April 5, 2014 photo provided by the National Portrait Gallery, Cicely Tyson, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey pose for a photo backstage at Angelou’s portrait unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Angelou, a Renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, has died, Wake Forest University said in a statement Wednesday, May 28, 2014. She was 86. Maya Angelou walked into a meeting of civil rights leaders discussing affirmative action, looked around, and put them all in their place with a single observation. “She came into the room,” recalled Al Sharpton, “and she said, ‘The first problem is you don’t have women in here of equal status. We need to correct you before you can correct the country.’” Angelou, who died Wednesday at age 86, will be forever known for her soaring poetry and her searing memoirs. But her impact transcended her written words. She was the nation’s wise woman, a poet to presidents, an unapologetic conscience for the civil rights movement. Never hesitant to speak her mind, Angelou passionately defended women, and literature, and the right of younger generations to be heard. “I’ve seen many things, I’ve learned many things,” she told The Associated Press in 2013. “I’ve certainly been exposed to many things and I’ve learned something: I owe it to you to tell you.” (Paul Morigi/AP Images for National Portrait Gallery)

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