Maya Angelou died on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in her home in Winston Salem, North Carolina. She was a writer, director, singer, dancer, composer, and lecturer. Angelou spoke at least six languages and worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. She was an inspiration to people of all generations, races and walks of life. “She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace,” said her son, Guy B. Johnson.
Most Americans remember her for her extraordinary ability to use words like a musical instrument to evoke deep emotions from her audience. “She called herself a poet, in love with the “sound of language,” ”the music in language.”
Maya Angelou had a connection to GSA through the African Burial Ground Project. The discovery of this site sparked interest and debate by the local community, politicians, actors, and other notable figures. Maya Angelou was a known activist in the Civil Rights Movement who worked with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. She was interviewed by GSA staff to hear her views on the discovery of the African Burial Ground.
The African Burial Ground site was discovered in 1991. During GSA’s pre-construction work for a new federal office building, workers discovered the skeletal remains of the first of more than 400 men, women and children. Investigations revealed that during the 17th and 18th centuries, free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6 acre burial ground in lower Manhattan outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, which would become New York.
Through the community’s activism and commitment, the African Burial Ground was awarded designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1993. The African Burial Ground was designated as a National Monument in 2006 and is managed by the National Parks Service.