Maya Angelou Is The 1st Black Woman Featured On U.S. Quarters

by Christina Marfice
Kris Connor/Getty Images

Author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou will become the first Black woman ever to be featured on a U.S. quarter

The U.S. has existed for 244 years, yet somehow it’s not really surprising that in all that time, a Black woman has never been featured on a quarter. Thankfully, that’s about to change — the United States Mint announced this week that it has begun shipping quarters featuring author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, which means the quarters should start appearing in circulation very soon.

The quarters that feature Angelou are part of the American Women Quarters Program. Angelou is the first person to be featured on quarters as part of the program. She is probably best known for her work “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” published in 1969. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama before she died in 2014 at age 86.

The quarter design shows Angelou standing with her arms open and outstretched. Behind her are a rising sun and a flying eagle, both images taken from some of her famous and well-known poetry.

“This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women,” said Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who sponsored the bill that created the American Women Quarters Program.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who also happens to be the first woman ever to hold that post, added, “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.”

The American Women Quarter Program will have the U.S. Mint release 20 new quarter designs over the next four years. Other honorees who will be featured on the coins include irst woman astronaut Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation; Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood; and Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools.