Flip a quarter soon and you may find that the “tails” side depicts the likeness of the late poet and activist Maya Angelou. On Monday, the United States Mint began shipping coins featuring the writer, making Angelou the first Black woman to appear on the quarter.
The Mint is distributing the new coins featuring Angelou as part of the American Women Quarters (AWQ) Program, a four-year project meant to honor the accomplishments and contributions of women from a range of disciplines. Rolling out through 2025, the program will introduce five new designs each year, with 2022 set to honor astronaut and physicist Dr. Sally Ride, Native American activist and Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller, New Mexico suffragist Nina Otero-Warren and Chinese American Hollywood star Anna May Wong, in addition to Angelou.
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“It is my honor to present our Nation’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history,” Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson said in an 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.”
The design for the quarter dedicated to Angelou, author of acclaimed works such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” captures the writer with her arms outstretched, mirrored by the wings of a bird and backdropped by sun rays that extend upward. The images, the Mint stated, are “inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived.” The designer for the coin is Emily Damstra, and the sculptor is Craig A. Campbell.
“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,” Secretary of the Treasury Janet L.Yellen said. “I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”
To acquire the coins, the Mint advised to “consult with your local banks regarding availability of AWQ Program quarters honoring Maya Angelou in late January and early February.”
For more information about the AWQ program, visit the Mint website.