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Renowned poet, novelist and actress Maya Angelou has passed away at the age of 86, according to her publicist, Helen Brann. Angelou died in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at her home. Angelou’s death will be a great loss to the creative community, as her contributions to society went well beyond her written word. Here are nine surprising facts about Maya Angelou:

1. When Angelou was 14, she became a cable car conductor in San Francisco and was the city’s first African-American female cable car conductor.

2. An avid musician and danger, Angelou toured with the opera production “Porgy and Bess” in the 1950s.

3. Angelou was a professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but she never went to college. That said, she has over 30 honorary degrees.

4. What got Angelou into writing was a tragic tale: When she was just seven years old, her mother’s boyfriend raped her. After Angelou testified against him, he was beaten to death by a mob. She later explained that her young self thought her voice killed him, so she went silent for years.

5. Angelou worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana.

6. Angelou was fluent in at least six languages.

7. In addition to being San Francisco’s first African-American female cable car conductor, Angelou was one of the first black women film directors.

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