Maya Angelou, renowned as a poet, novelist and actress, died at age 86 at her North Carolina home, her literary agent said.

Referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

"I created myself," she once said. "I have taught myself so much." The writer's voice was born from a childhood tragedy that stunned her into silence for almost a decade. When she was 7, her mother's boyfriend raped her.

He was later beaten to death by a mob after she testified against him. "My 7-and-a-half-year-old logic deduced that my voice had killed him, so I stopped speaking for almost six years," she said.

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