A new U.S. quarter featuring legendary poet, writer and activist Maya Angelou went into circulation on Monday (Jan. 10), making her the first Black woman to be featured on the coin.
In a statement, the U.S. Mint announced the new coin, which is the first of five designs in its American Women Quarters Program. Other quarters in the series, which celebrates important women in American history, will continue to be rolled out later this year and through 2025.
“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,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a release. “I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.
The quarter still features Former President George Washington’s profile on the “heads” side, while the “tails” side pictures Angelou in front of a bird and rising sun — a nod to her 1969 debut memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and a symbol “of the way she lived.”
The push for the American Women Quarters Program began in 2017 with support from California Rep. Barbara Lee, whose Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act passed last year.
“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,” Lee said in a statement on Monday. “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.'”
Besides the civil rights icon, the U.S. Mint’s quarters program will also distribute coins featuring Sally Ride, an astronaut and the first American woman to travel to space; Anna May Wong, considered to be the first Chinese-American Hollywood movie star; Wilma Mankiller, activist and the Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief; and Adelina Otero-Warren, a woman’s suffragist and the first Latina to run for Congress.
See Angelou’s quarter on Twitter below.
Poet Maya Angelou becomes the first Black woman to appear on a US quarter pic.twitter.com/6MI768E6kV
— Victor Blackwell CNN (@VictorBlackwell) January 10, 2022