Nominated for a National Book Award, the tome skyrocketed Angelou to national fame -- especially given the controversial nature of several sections, which dealt with child molestation, racism, and sexuality.
"I thought that it was a mild book. There's no profanity," Angelou told AP. "It speaks about surviving, and it really doesn't make ogres of many people. I was shocked to find there were people who really wanted it banned, and I still believe people who are against the book have never read the book."
After the success of her first book, Angelous wrote the screenplay and score for the 1972 film, "Georgia, Georgia," becoming the first African-American woman to author a screenplay that was filmed. It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
She would go on to write more than 30 published works, including five more memoirs and many books of poetry.
Beloved by stars, Angelou was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey and favorite of many presidents. She spoke at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton and was awarded the Presidential Medal of the Arts in 2000. In 2011, President Barack Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Last November, ABC News spoke with Angelou, who lived in in Winston-Salem because of her longtime teaching job at Wake Forest University.
"I'm learning that I have patience and that patience is a great gift," she said. "I know that people only do what they know to do. Not what they say they know, not what they think they should know. ... People do only what they know how to do, so I have patience. I pray that people will have patience with themselves and learn more."