The United States Mint has begun distributing quarters bearing Maya Angelou’s image, making the poet and activist the first Black woman to appear on US currency.
The quarter depicts Angelou with her arms raised, a bird in flight, and a rising sun in the background, with a portrait of George Washington on the “heads” side. The image of Angelou was “inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived,” according to the US Mint.
The poet and writer, who died in 2014, was the author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which she wrote about her childhood experiences with racial discrimination.
Maya Angelou, the author of 36 books and the recipient of over 20 honorary degrees, read her poem On the Pulse of the Morning at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1992 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2010.
“With each redesign of our currency, we have the opportunity to say something about our country – what we value, and how we’ve progressed as a society.” “I’m very proud that these coins honor the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou,” said US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
The coins depicting Angelou were part of the American Women Quarters Program, which honored notable women in American history. Barbara Lee, a Democrat, introduced the legislation.
“I will always treasure the private moments I had the honor of sharing 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,” Lee said.
“I am honored to have led this effort to honor these incredible women, who are frequently overlooked in our country’s telling of history.” If you come across a Maya Angelou quarter, remember her words: “Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.”