The United States Mint has begun distributing quarters with Maya Angelou’s portrait on them, making her the first Black woman to be featured on US currency.
“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,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
On the quarter, Angelou is pictured with outstretched arms. A bird in flight and a rising sun are shown behind her, both inspired by her poems.
The poet and writer, who died in 2014, was the author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which she wrote about the racial discrimination she experienced growing up.
The coins portraying Angelou were part of the American Women Quarters Program, which honored notable women in American history.
“I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou,” Yellen said.
Angelou was an inspired choice, according to Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who introduced legislation authorizing the mint to create the coins.
“This coin will ensure that future generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry, that speaks to the lived reality of Black women,” she said in a statement.
The United States Mint aims to issue 20 quarters honoring women and their accomplishments over the next four years.
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Wilma Mankiller, the Cherokee Nation’s first female major chief, Nina Otero-Warren, a suffrage leader, and Anna May Wong, a Chinese-American film actress, are among the other women planned to appear on the coins.