Poet Maya Angelou Becomes First Black Woman to Appear on U.S. Quarter

Maya Angelou, the late legendary poet and activist, became the first Black woman to appear on the United States quarter as circulation of the coin began on Jan. 10.

The United States Mint announced that it has begun shipping the first coins in the American Women Quarters (AWQ) program, honoring Angelou who was also the first Black woman to write and present a poem at a presidential inauguration.

The “tails” side of the new coin depict Angelou with her arms lifted and with a flying bird and a rising sun, which are “inspired by her poetry and the symbolic of the way she lived,” U.S. Mint said.

“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. I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

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

Angelou gained international prominence after she published her autobiography titled, “I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing.”

Throughout her career, Angelou received 30 honorary degrees and her published works included over 30 bestselling titles.

In 1992, Angelou made history when she read “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton.

In 2010, former President Barack Obama awarded Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The National Book Foundation awarded Angelou the Literarian Award in 2013.

Angelou died on May 28, 2014 at the age of 86.


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