Maya Angelou becomes 1st Black woman featured on US quarter


FILE – In this Nov. 21, 2008, file photo, poet Maya Angelou smiles at an event in Washington. On Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, the United States Mint said it has begun shipping quarters featuring the image of poet Maya Angelou, the first coins in its American Women Quarters Program. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The United States Mint began shipping quarters featuring the image of poet Maya Angelou, the first coins in its American Women Quarters Program.

The quarter design shows Angelou with outstretched arms. Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun, images inspired by her world-renowned autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Angelou, who died in 2014 at the age of 86, is an American author, poet and civil rights activist who was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

(United States Mint)

The mint’s program will issue 20 quarters over the next four years honoring women and their achievements in shaping the nation’s history.

Additional honorees in 2022 will be physicist and first woman astronaut Sally Ride, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. Also honored this year will be Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, the Senate sponsor of legislation directing the mint to issue the quarters honoring women, applauded the selection of Angelou for the first coin.

“This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women,” she said in a statement.

“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,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

The Biden administration announced soon after taking office a year ago that it planned to replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill with that of Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and leader in the Underground Railroad. However, since that announcement, the administration has provided no further details on its plans.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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