The United States Mint announced Monday that a new batch of U.S. quarters will feature the esteemed poet and activist Maya Angelou, making her the first Black woman in the country’s history to appear on a coin. These circulating quarters are part of the American Women Quarters (AWQ) Program, and coins featuring additional honorees will be shipped throughout the year until 2025.
Ventris C. Gibson, U.S. Mint deputy director, described the purpose of the empowering campaign in the announcement. “Each 2022 quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments being celebrated throughout this historic coin program. Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift,” she said.
U.S. Representative Barbara Lee announced the news on Twitter, sharing a picture of the spirited Maya Angelou quarter. “Excited to announce that today, Maya Angelou becomes the first Black woman to appear on a US quarter!” she wrote. “The phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long—especially women of color. Proud to have led this bill to honor their legacies.”
Excited to announce that today, Maya Angelou becomes the first Black woman to appear on a US quarter!
The phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long—especially women of color. Proud to have led this bill to honor their legacies. pic.twitter.com/TYZeEJ8LhX
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) January 10, 2022
“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,” said Lee in the announcement. “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 coin was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Artist Emily Damstra and sculpted by United States Mint Medallic Artist Craig A. Campbell. It renders Angelou with her arms raised, and the rising sun and a bird sit behind her––images inspired by her poetry and are symbolic of the liberalizing life that she led.
“Maya Angelou’s writing and activism inspired countless Americans and her legacy helped fuel greater fairness and understanding across our nation,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who supported the bill. “She is exactly the type of leader I had in mind when Senator Fischer, Representative Lee and I wrote our bipartisan legislation to create a series of quarters honoring the contributions of American women. This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women.”
Below, watch the B-roll for the Maya Angelou quarter.