Maya Angelou Becomes First Black Woman to Be Featured on a Quarter

Even after her death, Maya Angelou continues to make history.  

The United States Mint has begun shipping quarters honoring writer, poet, performer, social activist, and teacher Maya Angelou.

Angelou, the first of five trailblazing women included in the Mint's American Women Quarters Program, is also the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter.

Maya Angelou
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

"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 a news 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 reverse side of the new quarter depicts Angelou with her arms uplifted.  Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun: images inspired by her poetry and the way she lived her inimitable life. 

Maya Angelou Quarter
United States Mint

"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," Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), House sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "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.'"

Each year until 2025 as part of the American Women Quarters Program, the Mint will issue five quarters honoring individuals with a variety of accomplishments across numerous fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.

In addition to Angelou, this year's honorees include physicist and first woman astronaut Dr. Sally Ride; activist for Native American and women's rights Wilma Mankiller; 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.

Angelou was the author of more than 30 bestselling titles, including her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She passed away in 2014, at the age of 86.

The Mint advises speaking with your local bank regarding availability of the Angelou quarters in late January and early February.

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