Maya Angelou ‘The Brightest Light’ says Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama has led the tributes to Maya Angelou, describing the poet, author and activist as “one of the brightest lights of our time”.

He hailed Angelou, who has died aged 86, as “a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman”.

She made her name with the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which charted a childhood of oppression and abuse in the Deep South in the 1930s.

Her family described her as “a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”.

In a statement on Facebook, they said she passed away quietly at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at 08:00 EST (12:00 GMT).

“Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belaboured by a loss of acuity or comprehension,” they said.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being… The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”