Mandela Foundation mourns passing of Maya Angelou

29 May 2014

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has joined millions of people around the world in mourning the passing of renowned author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

Her family announced that she passed away on Wednesday at the age of 86.

In a statement on the same day, the foundation said that former president Nelson Mandela first met Angelou while he was travelling through Africa in 1962 to garner support for the armed struggle against apartheid and to undergo military training.

“He met her in February 1962 in Cairo, Egypt, when she was married to PAC [Pan Africanist Congress] activist Vusumzi Make. He [Mandela] later recalled: ‘I spent a lot of time with her in Cairo’.”

The foundation said the next time Mandela was in contact with Angelou was more than 27 years later, after he was released from prison. Mandela had gone to Washington DC for the inauguration of US President Bill Clinton in January 1993.

“He told Richard Stengel, his collaborator on his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, that he telephoned her in her hotel after she had ‘delivered a very powerful poem.’

“We, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, were deeply moved by the poem His Day is Done, which Angelou wrote on Madiba’s passing on 5 December last year.

“Our archives reveal that today in 1986, Mr Mandela watched in prison the film version of her work I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

“May she rest in peace.”