Esteemed African-American writer and poet Maya Angelou is set to have her image featured on a set of quarters that will be circulated by the United States Mint in January 2022. She joins NASA astronaut Sally Ride as the first two women to appear on the special edition coins.
Set to be circulated over a four-year period, the quarters are being issued as part of the American Women Quarters Program, The New York Times reported. The program will see twenty iconic American women having their images featured on the coins.
The legislation to request the Treasury Department to implement the program was tabled before the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. In a statement, the California Representative welcomed the announcement of the first two names.
“For too long, many of the women who have contributed to our country’s history have gone unrecognized, especially women of color,” she said. “I am pleased to see that the first women to be recognized under my bill are outstanding individuals in the fields of science and literature: Dr. Sally Ride and Dr. Maya Angelou. They paved the way for many who came after them and inspired young women to carry on their legacy. Our goal in working on this legislation was to honor phenomenal women like Dr. Maya Angelou and Dr. Sally Ride. I’m glad they are among the first of many to be recognized”.
Angelou, who passed away in 2014, is remembered for her critically acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings autobiography. The civil rights activist also made history during Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 when she became the first Black as well as the first female to recite a poem at the swearing-in ceremony.
Seven designs to honor Angelou’s legacy on the American Women Quarters Program have been announced by The Mint, ABC News reported. In one of the illustrations, a black bird is seen standing on one of the fingers of the deceased poet while she also holds a bird cage with her other hand.
“The Mint will issue circulating and numismatic quarter-dollar coins with reverse (tails) designs emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of a prominent American woman beginning in January 2022,” the United States Mint’s office said in a statement.
The Mint also said the women who will be featured on the coins will be shortlisted from “a wide spectrum of fields including, but not limited to, suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts.” They’ll also come from “ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse backgrounds.”
Public law, however, stipulates that people who are featured on coins are not supposed to be alive – meaning all the women who are going to be honored on the program must be deceased.