The U.S. Mint has begun rolling out quarters which feature writer, poet and activist Maya Angelou, the first Black woman to appear on the coin.
“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 statement. “I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”
The new coin is part of the American Women Quarters program. Additional quarters will feature astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to be principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Anna May Wong, who was the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star; and Nina Otero-Warren, the first female superintendent of Santa Fe, N.M., public schools and a leader in the suffrage movement. These quarters will continue to be released later this year and into 2025, according to a press release from the U.S. Mint.
Angelou’s first memoir, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” narrates her life up until the age of 17 and rose her to national acclaim. She was a prominent activist in the Civil Rights Movement and worked with leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., at one point serving as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In 1993, Angelou read her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration and made history as the first Black poet to write and perform a poem at a presidential inauguration. Former President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.
The push for wider representation of Black Americans on U.S. currency is not limited to quarters. In 2016, the Obama administration first announced a proposal to replace former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with abolitionist Harriet Tubman by 2020. The Trump administration halted these efforts, as former President Donald Trump called the efforts to replace Jackson “pure political correctness” on the campaign trail, though former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin cited counterfeit and security concerns.
Shortly after President Joe Biden’s inauguration last January, press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration would aim to speed up the process of getting Tubman’s likeness on the $20 bill.