Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou’s face joined the first president of the United States on a select number of quarters minted for distribution in 2022. The renowned author will not only be the first Black person to grace the quarter-dollar coin, but is the only person to do so outside of George Washington.
According to Politico, the U.S. Mint has already started integrating the Angelou quarters into the American public.
In a statement, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “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. I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”
The U.S. Treasury Department shared that this coin, authorized by Public Law 116-330, is the debut currency in its American Women Quarters Program and is being made in the nation’s Mint facilities in Philadelphia and Denver.
The department, founded by Alexander Hamilton, will release an additional 15 honorees over the next three years (five per year), culminating in the rollout in 2025.
“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 stated in a press release.
“Each 2022 quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments being celebrated throughout this historic coin program,” Gibson continued. “Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift.”
Washington will remain on the heads side of the coin, while Angelou will grace the tails. The new face of the coin has been designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Emily Damstra and sculpted by United States Mint Medallic Artist Craig A. Campbell.
Angelou, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the same as Vice President Kamala Harris, is featured in the new design with her arms uplifted to the sky with a bird in flight behind her.
Additionally, a rising sun can be seen beaming in the awe-striking image.
The poet, who Oprah Winfrey claimed as a mentor, will have her name featured in capital letters as an inscription on the coin. The other phrases that appear on the coins are “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and “QUARTER DOLLAR.”
Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), was the U.S. House sponsor of the bill and said, “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.”
“I will forever cherish the private moments I had the privilege to share with Maya, from talking in her living room as sisters to her invaluable counsel throughout the challenges I faced as a Black woman in elected office,” she added.
“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.’”
The other honorees to be released in 2022 are a physicist and first woman astronaut Dr. Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and an activist for Native American and women’s rights; Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.
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