There has been mourning across the globe over the loss of the iconic poet, author and activist, who died on May 28 at the age of 86 in her North Carolina home.
Among those speaking at the service were Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
The first lady described Angelou as a “phenomenal” woman, who found an eloquent and groundbreaking way to describe Black women’s beauty.
“I was struck by how she celebrated Black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before,” Obama said. “Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace.”
The first lady added, “as a young woman, I needed that message.”
Winfrey fought back tears as she recalled Angelou’s remarkable life.
In a statement after Angelou’s death, Winfrey remembered her as a “mentor, mother-sister, and friend,” and at the service Winfrey gave her another endearing title – “spiritual queen mother.”
“She was the ultimate teacher,” Winfrey said. “She taught me the poetry of courage and respect.”
“We can be better and do better because she existed,” she said.
Like Angelou, Clinton grew up in Arkansas and witnessed the struggles that she described in her books.
“I knew the people she was talking about, the problems she was documenting,” he said.
The former president touched the crowd when he explained how it was possible for Angelou to possess such a powerful presence and voice.
“God loaned her her voice,” he explained. “And He decided He wanted it back for a while.”
While she was alive, Clinton said Angelou called attention to the things that really mattered.
“Her great gift in her action-packed life is that she was always paying attention,” he said. “She called our attention to the things that really matter – dignity, work, love and kindness – are things that we can share, and don’t cost anything.”
While the service was only open to Angelou’s friends and family, it was livestreamed by Wake Forest.
Angelou’s family has planned other memorials across the country, but the family made it clear they don’t want any gifts.
Instead, they are asking for donations to the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity.