“Our planet has lost a friend,” the author and poet said Friday during a telephone interview.
Angelou was a journalist in Egypt, living with South African activist Vusumzi Make, when Mandela visited them. She remembered him as handsome and funny and unusually generous with compliments, able to get along with the varying groups of political opponents to South Africa’s apartheid regime.
Mandela was imprisoned in 1964, but their friendship resumed in the 1990s after his release, she said.
“He was kind to everybody,” she said.
The U.S. Department of State later Friday released a video of Angelou reciting a new poem, “His Day is Done,” in which she mourned Mandela’s death, praised him as a modern Gideon and, in one passage, marveled at his endurance of racism and imprisonment:
Would the man survive?