Eight years after her passing and the late, great Maya Angelou continues to break barriers by becoming the first Black woman ever to appear on to U.S. quarter. The US Mint began circulating the quarters on Monday. It features Angelou on the tail side with her arms uplifted. Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun, symbolizing two of her most famous works, Still I Rise and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
Rep. Barbara Lee has been largely credited for the creation of the new coin after introducing the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020.
The act requires the Department of Treasury to commemorate “the accomplishments and contributions of up to five prominent American women per year.”
“The phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long—especially women of color,” Lee tweeted. “Proud to have led this bill to honor their legacies.”
The first coin of the American Women Quarters™ Program is here—the Maya Angelou Quarter! Learn about honoree Maya Angelou and #HerQuarter in our press release at https://t.co/yYzGJpXQDD. Look for it in your change. @USTreasury @smithsonian @womenshistory @DrMayaAngelou @WCPInst pic.twitter.com/GVUpcnbszq
— United States Mint (@usmint) January 10, 2022
Angelou died in 2014 at the age of 86. But thanks to the US Mint’s American Women Quarters Program, her likeness will be immortalized. Last year, the agency asked the public to submit names of American women whom they considered icons in areas of “suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.” The Phenomenal Woman poet laureate is the first of the collection.
Others selected to be commemorated on a coin is Sally Ride; the first American woman astronaut to go into space; Wilma ManKiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Anna May Wong; the first Asian American Hollywood actress and Nina Otero-Warren; the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools and leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement.
Over the next three years, the agency will design five coins honoring these women.