Maya Angelou on Christian faith: 'If God loves me, what is it I can't do?'

Maya AngelouWikimedia

Celebrated civil rights leader, writer, and teacher Dr. Maya Angelou passed away on May 28, at the age of 86.

Dr. Angelou recently canceled two scheduled appearances for undisclosed health reasons, and was found this morning in her home by her caretaker.

Her only child, Guy B. Johnson, released a statement on behalf of the family confirming her death and celebrating her life.

"Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension.

"She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love."

Dr. Angelou's illustrious career rose from tragic beginnings.

Born Marguerite Anne Johnson on April 4, 1928, she and her brother were shipped between Missouri and Arkansas throughout their youth, and she was raped at the age of eight. The assault was life-changing, and it was in the dark years that followed that Dr. Angelou discovered her love of literature.

She also became engrossed in the performing arts, and studied acting, singing, dance. Angelou gained international fame, however, from the publication of her first autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

Dr. Angelou would go on to write six more autobiographies and numerous plays and poems, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated collection, "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie," and the highly-acclaimed poems "Still I Rise" and "Phenomenal Woman."

The author was also highly involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and had close personal relationships with Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, and Nelson Mandela. She was the coordinator for Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and also fought against South African apartheid.

Dr. Angelou said in a 2013 interview that it was her faith in God that allowed her to achieve such incredible feats.

"I found that I knew not only that there was God but that I was a child of God, when I understood that, when I comprehended that, more than that, when I internalized that, ingested that, I became courageous," she told The Times-Picayune.

"I dared to do anything that was a good thing. I dared to do things as distant from what seemed to be in my future.

"If God loves me, if God made everything from leaves to seals and oak trees, then what is it I can't do?"