The late Maya Angelou is now the first Black woman to ever appear on U.S. currency. The U.S. Mint announced that a new quarter featuring the legendary poet and activist went into circulation Monday. You should be able to get your hands on one by late January.
While the coin still features George Washington on the front “heads” side, the “tails” side features an image of Angelou with her arms spread and a bird in flight behind her in homage to her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
“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,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). “I will forever cherish the private moments I had the privilege to share with Maya, from talking in her living room as sisters to her invaluable counsel throughout the challenges I faced as a Black woman in elected office. I am proud to have led this effort to honor these phenomenal women, who more often than not are overlooked in our country’s telling of history. 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.’”
The new quarter is the first in the American Women Quarters Program honoring women who have impacted American history. The program was created after the passing of Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act of 2020 spearheaded by Lee.
It comes after Barack Obama’s administration first introduced plans to replace Andrew Jackson with abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill in 2016. Those plans were later halted by Donald Trump’s administration and a new call issued by the Biden administration to revive is now on hold.
The U.S. Mint is set to release four more quarters this year as part of the program. The other featured women are Sally Ride, the first American woman astronaut in space; Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; and Nina Otero-Warren, the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools and first Latin woman to run for Congress.
“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,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a recent statement. “I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”
The new quarters will be printed through 2025.