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Maya Angelou to appear on US quarters in historic first

Angelou is a celebrated activist, poet and author who will be honoured as part of the American Women Quarters Program
Angelou is a celebrated activist, poet and author who will be honoured as part of the American Women Quarters Program   -   Copyright  Gerald Herbert/AP
By Tim Gallagher  with AP

Maya Angelou is set to be the first Black woman on a US quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program.

The United States Mint said on Monday it has begun shipping quarters featuring the image of the poet. Who first rose to prominence on the publication of her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in 1969.

Angelou was a celebrated author, poet and Civil Rights activist, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2010 for her cultural significance and influential work.

The quarter design depicts Angelou with outstretched arms. Behind her are a bird in flight and a rising sun, images inspired by her poetry.

The mint's program will issue 20 quarters over the next four years honouring women and their achievements in shaping the nation's history.

Who else will be on the American Women Quarters?

Additional honourees in 2022 will be physicist and first woman astronaut Sally Ride, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico's suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools, and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood will also grace the coins this year.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (Democrat, Nevada), the Senate sponsor of legislation directing the mint to issue the quarters honouring women, applauded the Mint's selection of Angelou for the first coin.

"This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou's books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women," she said in a statement.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the nation's first female Treasury secretary, said, "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 Biden administration announced soon after taking office a year ago that it planned to replace Andrew Jackson's portrait on the $20 bill with abolitionist Harriet Tubman, a leader in the Underground Railroad. However, since that announcement the administration has provided no further details on its plans.