Legendary poet Maya Angelou has become the first Black woman to be featured on a coin. As part of its American Women Quarter Program initiative, The U.S. Mint announced on Monday that the late Civil Rights activist is one out of a variety of American historical women chosen to celebrate women’s contribution to the U.S.
“Each 2022 quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments being celebrated throughout this historic coin program. Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift,” Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson said in a statement.
The four-year coin program, beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, aims to highlight twenty trailblazing women with backgrounds deriving from civil rights, humanities, science, women’s suffrage, and arts, to name a few. Other deserving recipients who join Ms. Angelou for this prestigious honor include Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and women’s rights activist; Nina Ortero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s women’s suffrage movement; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American film star in Hollywood.
Over the next four-years, the U.S. Mint will continue to select future honorees. While these women embark on a historic monumental milestone, It is important to note that President George Washington will continue to be featured on the “heads” side of the coin.
“Each time we redesign our currency, we have the chance to say something about our country—what we value, and how we’ve progressed as a society,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. “I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”
The philanthropist and author’s rise to international prominence has been widely recognized and respected by the likes of fellow philanthropists, such as Oprah Winfrey and the late Sidney Poitier.
The quarters evoking a pose of one of Ms. Angelou’s most famous works, the autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” have been authorized by the Circulating Collectable Coin Redesign Act of 2020, an act introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D).
“Women have played a critical role in shaping this country since its founding but have often been excluded or gone unrecognized. This bill is an important step in recognizing the contributions women have made in furthering civil rights and making our country a more equitable place,” Lee said in a statement.
Ms. Angelou, who was 86-years-old at the time of her death, achieved admirable heights of success including publishing 36 books, being a celebrated actress and filmmaker, and being awarded in 2010 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
The quarters have already started being shipped to banks by the Department of the Treasury. Designed by artist Emily Damstra, and sculpted by Mint medallic artist Craig A. Campbell, it illustrates Ms. Angelou from her hips up, with her arms lifted in front of the backdrop of a bird.