For the first time in American history, people will be able to hold a piece of U.S. currency with the image of a Black woman – poet Maya Angelou – later this month.
According to the U.S. Mint, shipping of coins bearing an image of Angelou on the tails side and the traditional portrait of first U.S. President George Washington on the heads side had started as of Monday. These coins are part of the American Women Quarters (AWQ) Program and they are manufactured at facilities in Philadelphia, Penn., and Denver, Colo.
“Please consult with your local banks regarding availability of AWQ Program quarters honoring Maya Angelou in late January and early February,” said the Mint.
Those interested in collecting the coins can also look for them in their change this year, or enroll in a program to sign up to receive all four annual installments as they become available. Limited quantities are available.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Angelou was a poet, writer, performer, social activist, and teacher. She became internationally famous for her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and she has published more than 30 bestselling titles. Throughout her career, Angelou has received more than 30 honorary degrees. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom and she was the 2013 recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.
Angelou was also the first African American woman who wrote and presented a poem at a Presidential inauguration, for President Bill Clinton in 1992.
“Maya Angelou’s writing and activism inspired countless Americans and her legacy helped fuel greater fairness and understanding across our nation,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Senate sponsor of the AWQ bill.
Artist Emily Damstra designed the image of Angelou, which depicts her in front of a bird in flight and a raising sun with her arms raised. It was sculpted by artist Craig A. Campbell and was inspired by her poetry.
In addition to Angelou, four other women will appear on quarters in 2022: physicist and first woman astronaut Dr. Sally Ride; first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and Native American activist Wilma Mankiller; New Mexico’s suffrage movement leader Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American film star.
“The ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of individuals honored through this program reflects a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts,” said the Mint.
Through 2025, five women will appear on the tails side of U.S. quarters annually through the AWQ program. The public was invited to submit recommendations for the 2022 batch through a web portal hosted by the National Women's History Museum and more than 11,000 recommendations were submitted for consideration.
Coin designs were released in October.
According to the Mint, the program “celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women to the development and history of our country.”