HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”
That’s just one of many quotes from great American poet, Maya Angelou. The 86-year-old author and activist died Wednesday morning in her North Carolina home. She was also an educator and historian. She overcame unspeakable violence as a child and rose to become one of the most celebrated literary minds of our time.
Dr. Angelou was also a familiar face to people here in Hampton Roads. She visited the area several times, once delivering the address at William and Mary’s Convocation Ceremony in 1993. She was expected back in April for their annual “I am W&M” week, but had to cancel, due to illness.
She also made several trips to Hampton University, where a librarian told WAVY.com about her life, legacy and uncanny personal touch. Gladys Bell is just one of the many people Dr. Maya Angelou has touched over the years. She met her in the 1990’s.
“She was a very special lady,” Bell said. “Not only big in her stature, but big in her spirituality. Her family life, her past was not so pleasant all the time, but she rose above all of that. She had remarkable things to leave behind of inspiration fulfilling life’s dreams. She did a bunch of things.”
And that has provided inspiration for years. Bell keeps an old card catalogue keepsake signed by Angelou at her desk at Hampton University’s Harvey Library. She’s in charge of the rare book collection there, including many of Dr. Angelou’s works.
“Her stuff is so unique and profound,” Bell said. “Someone has to take over and continue the legacy. It’s a sad day.”
Funeral arrangements for Dr. Angelou are pending. There are plans for a memorial at Wake Forest University, where Angelou taught for more than 30 years.