The writer and poet Maya Angelou has become the first Black woman to have her likeness depicted on the quarter, the first in a series of coins commemorating pioneering American women that began shipping this week, the U.S. Mint announced Monday.
“It is my honor to present our nation’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history,” Ventris C. Gibson, the deputy director of the Mint, said in a statement. “Maya Angelou,” she added, “used words to inspire and uplift.”
The quarter featuring her likeness — created by Emily Damstra, a designer, and Craig A. Campbell, a medallic artist — depicts Ms. Angelou with her arms uplifted, in front of a bird in flight and rays of sunlight streaking out from behind her. The images were both “inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived,” the Mint said.
Ms. Angelou is featured on the “tails” side of the 25-cent piece; the “heads” side includes a portrait of George Washington.
The coin is the first in the American Women Quarters Program, a four-year effort in which the Mint will issue five quarters a year to honor women in fields including women’s suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science and the arts. This year’s other honorees are Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; Wilma Mankiller, a Native American activist; Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.