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Maya Angelou Becomes First Black Woman to Appear on US Quarter, Treasury Begins Distribution

On Monday a new US quarter featuring legendary poet and activist, the late Maya Angelou, went into circulation, the US Mint announced. This makes Angelou the first Black woman to ever appear on the coin. The Maya Angelou quarter is the first in the American Women Quarters Program, which will include coins that feature prominent women in American history. In a release on Monday, the Mint said that other quarters in the series will begin rolling out later this year and through 2025.

            The coin still features George Washington’s visage on the “heads” side of the coin, however, the “tails” side celebrates Angelou by evoking one of her most famous works “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” “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,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. Lawmakers celebrated the release of the new coin on Monday and credited Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, with the achievement. Back in 2020, Lee introduced the Circulating Collectible Coin Redesign Act, which passed in January 2021 and lead to the creations of these coins. The US Mint invited the public to submit names of women they view as American icons.

            “The phenomenal women who shaped American history have gone unrecognized for too long – especially women of color,” Lee said in a tweet. “Proud to have led to this bill to honor their legacies.” 

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