Maya Angelou Will Be the First Black Woman to Appear on the U.S. Quarter

Jaelani Turner-Williams Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with…
Photo Credit: Handout/AFP/Getty Images

Late author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou will be on the U.S. quarter-dollar, the first Black woman to appear on the currency.

The first coin of the American Women Quarters Program is here. As part of a four-year effort honoring prominent women in U.S. history with their own coin, Maya Angelou will be the first Black woman to grace the quarter-dollar.

The quarter shows Angelou on the “tails” side of the quarter, while the new portrait of first president George Washington facing right will be on the “heads” side. With Angelou’s arms outstretched, a bird in flight and rising sun silhouette the writer and poet. The Mint says the images are “inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived.”

Officially shipping to banks on Monday, according to the U.S. Mint website, other honorees include Chinese film star Anna May Wong; suffragist, politician and educator Nina Otero-Warren; astronaut and educator Dr. Sally Ride; and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Angelou, who died in 2014 at 86-years-old, is heralded for her distinguished legacy in American culture. Publishing more than 30 bestselling works including her 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in 1992, Angelou became the first Black woman to write and perform a poem for the presidential inauguration. Angelou also received Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama in 2010 and won the Literarian Award in 2013.

“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,” said Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson in a statement.

Continuing through 2025, the U.S. Mint will issue up to five new reverse designs each year.

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