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Poet Maya Angelou becomes the first Black woman to be featured on a U.S. quarter

George Washington will feature on the heads side, while Angelou will appear on the tails side with imagery that pays tribute to her 1970 autobiography title.

Poet Maya Angelou becomes the first Black woman to be featured on a U.S. quarter
Left: NEW YORK - JUNE 03: Dr. Maya Angelou at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 3, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for AWRT) Right: UNITED STATES MINT

Maya Angelou has become the first Black woman to be featured on a U.S. quarter. The poet and civil rights activist had passed away at the age of 86 in 2014. The new U.S. quarter is part of a series that pays tribute to American women, according to the United States Mint. It was also confirmed that the bureau has already started shipping the coin featuring Angelou. As part of the series of quarters, the U.S. Mint will be honoring 20 trailblazing women who've contributed to America in many ways, from the suffrage and civil rights movements to government and the arts. The series will start with Angelou and Dr. Sally Ride, the NASA astronaut. The coins that have debuted this month will be in circulation through 2025. Through the period, United States Mint will introduce the other 18 quarters featuring American women.


"It is my honor to present our Nation's first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history," said Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson in a 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." In the quarter honoring the poet, George Washington appears on the heads side, while Angelou appears on the tails side. Behind her, a rising sun and a bird in flight can be seen, paying tribute to her 1970 autobiography title—'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.' Angelou was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama. 

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 07: The Maya Angelou Forever Stamp is seen at the Maya Angelou Forever Stamp Dedicationat at the Warner Theatre on April 7, 2015, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)


The American Women Quarters Program became a reality, thanks to a bill introduced in Congress by Senator Deb Fischer and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. “This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women,” said Masto in a statement, reported AP News. There have been previous programs towards similar tributes. In 1999, the 50 State Quarters Program created 50 unique quarters representing each of the 50 states. In a similar vein, the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act (CCCRA), tabled by Senators Fischer and Masto, will put "our country’s most extraordinary women front and center." As per the new bill, Mint will also issue a special quarter featuring a woman in 2026 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. 


"The idea for this bill stems from the women’s suffrage movement and the 19th Amendment, whose 100th anniversary we celebrated recently," wrote the senators in an Op-ed for USA Today. "These past 100 years of suffrage would not have been possible without the work of so many courageous women, whose efforts paved the way for many more to make crucial contributions to the history of the United States. Many of these admirable women will appear on these quarters starting in 2022." 



Some of the others who will feature in quarters in 2022 include Wilma Mankiller, the first woman principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first woman superintendent of Santa Fe public schools, and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood. "This decade, one in which we have the first woman vice president, marks another special moment: a chance to illuminate the female trailblazers of America’s past to inspire the women of the present and future," wrote Senators Fischer and Masto. "These coins will be a celebration of our great nation and the women whose accomplishments have gone too long without proper recognition. The Mint will select 2022’s famous women later this year." 


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