Maya Angelou Becomes First Black Woman Featured on U.S. Quarter as New Coins Enter Circulation

The U.S. Mint announced the shipping on Monday, noting that the quarters in honor of Angelou are manufactured in Philadelphia and Denver. In a statement, Ventris C. Gibson—the Deputy Director of the U.S. Mint—said the new coins are designed to celebrate the “contributions to American history” from each honoree.

“It is my honor to present our Nation’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history,” Gibson said Monday. “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.”

The tails side of the coin (designed by Emily Damstra and sculpted by Craig A. Campbell) features a depiction of Angelou with her arms in an uplifted position. A bird is seen behind her, with a Mint rep stating that the design (which also features a rising sun) are meant to be emblematic of both Angelou’s work as a poet and “the way she lived.”

As Rep. Barbara Lee and others have pointed out, the beginning of circulation for the inaugural American Women Quarters Program coin makes Angelou—who died in 2014 at the age of 86—the first Black woman to ever appear on the quarter.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being,” the I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings author’s son, Guy B. Johnson, said in a statement shared by the Associated Press following news of her death in 2014. “She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace.”

Others set to be commemorated as part of the American Women Quarters Program includeDr. Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong.


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