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Maya Angelou to become first black woman to appear on U.S. quarter

On Monday, the United States Mint said it has started shipping out quarters featuring the image of famous poet and Civil Rights activist Maya Angelou. The coin with her likeness is the first in the mint’s American Women Quarters Program. 

Angelou, also an American author, rose to prominence with the publication of her work “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1969. She passed away in 2014 at the age of 86, but she had been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 before her death by then-President Barack Obama.

The design of the quarter shows Angelou with arms outstretched. And behind her, the quarter depicts a bird in flight and a rising sun, both images which were inspired by her poetry. 

The release is the first of 20 quarters issued by the mint over the next four years meant to honor women and their achievements in shaping the history of the nation. Other honorees in 2022 will be Sally Ride, physicist and first female astronaut, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Also slated to be honored this year will be Nina Otero-Warren, who was a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement as well as the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools, and the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood, Anna May Wong.

Janet Yellen, the nation’s first female Treasury secretary, commented about the release of the new coins, saying, “Each time we redesign our currency, we have the chance to say something about our country. … I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”

Not long after taking office last year, the Biden Administration announced that Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill would be replaced with abolitionist Harriet Tubman, a key leader in the Underground Railroad. Since the announcement, no other details have been released on the plan. 

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: COMPLEX.COM

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