Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon mourned the death of celebrated African-American poet and author Maya Angelou, saying the United Nations owed her a particular debt of gratitude for the moving poem she wrote for the world body's 50th anniversary.
“The United Nations owes her a particular debt of gratitude for her poem 'A Brave and Startling Truth', written for the 50th anniversary of our Organization,” the Secretary-General said in a letter sent out on behalf of the UN to the family and friends of Ms. Angelou, who died Wednesday at her home in Winston Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.
Ms. Angelou, who gained widespread fame in 1969 following the publication of her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which recounted in frank detail her coming-of-age in America's “Jim Crow” South. She followed that with a string of literary and academic triumphs. In 1993, she recited the landmark poem On the Pulse of Morning at United States President Bill Clinton's first inauguration.
In 1995, she was invited by the UN to read a poem at its 50th anniversary commemoration. A Brave and Startling Truth tackled themes of human rights, peace and social justice.
“Her words on that occasion – that all 'have the power to fashion for this earth a climate where every man and every woman can live freely,' will forever resonate at the United Nations,” Mr. Ban wrote in his letter.
“Her moving writing generated compassion and empowerment in her country and around the world,” he said.
“At this time of loss, I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that Ms. Angelou led such an inspiring life, and leaves behind a remarkable legacy of hope for the world.”