On Monday, the US Mint announced that a new quarter featuring the iconic poet, memoirist and civil rights activist Maya Angelou has begun shipping as part of the American Women Quarters Program. This groundbreaking event makes her the first Black woman to appear on the coin.

Angelou’s quarter is one of four coins featuring American women of historical significance slated for shipping through 2025. Additional honorees include Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Anna May Wong, the pioneering Asian film star, Wilma Mankiller, activist, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and Nina Otero-Warren, author, educator, and advocate of the Women’s Suffrage movement in the United States.

“It is my honor to present our Nation’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history,” Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson said in the press release. “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 late author rose to international prominence in 1969 after the publication of her memoir autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Since then, Angelou became the first Black poet to write and read a poem at a Presidential inauguration with “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She also was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1994, the National Medal of Arts in 2000, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by in 2011; among a bevy of other accolades and honors.

Upon the US Mint’s announcement, members of the Senate expressed their admiration of Angelou and how important it is to highlight the lives and accomplishments of these remarkable women in American history.

“Maya Angelou’s writing and activism inspired countless Americans and her legacy helped fuel greater fairness and understanding across our nation,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. “She is exactly the type of leader I had in mind when Senator Fischer, Representative Lee and I wrote our bipartisan legislation to create a series of quarters honoring the contributions of American women. This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women.”

“As a leader in the civil rights movement, poet laureate, college professor, Broadway actress, dancer, and the first female African American cable car conductor in San Francisco, Maya Angelou’s brilliance and artistry inspired generations of Americans,” House Representative Barbara Lee said in the release. “I am proud to have led this effort to honor these phenomenal women, who more often than not are overlooked in our country’s telling of history. If you find yourself holding a Maya Angelou quarter, may you be reminded of her words, ‘be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.’”


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