Poet and activist Maya Angelou, who died in 2014, has become the first Black woman to be featured on a United States quarter coin.
The 25-cent coin, which shows Angelou with outstretched arms, went into circulation on Monday.
It is the first of a series of commemorative coins to be released through a programme meant to honour prominent women in US history signed into law last year.
The United States Mint “has begun shipping the first coins” with Angelou’s likeness on the quarter, according to a press release from the agency.
“It is my honor to present our nation’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history,” said Mint Deputy Director Ventris Gibson.
“Each 2022 quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments being celebrated throughout this historic coin program. Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift.”
The first coin of the American Women Quarters™ Program is here—the Maya Angelou Quarter! Learn about honoree Maya Angelou and #HerQuarter in our press release at https://t.co/yYzGJpXQDD. Look for it in your change. @USTreasury @smithsonian @womenshistory @DrMayaAngelou @WCPInst pic.twitter.com/GVUpcnbszq
— United States Mint (@usmint) January 10, 2022
Angelou was born in Missouri in 1928 and became an essayist and poet who worked with Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1969, she published her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and later read her poem On the Pulse of Morning at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama.
Angelou’s depiction on the coin comes amid a decades-long push to feature more diverse Americans on US currency, which has long been dominated mostly white men, including several slave owners.
Under its current programme, the US mint will issue 20 quarters over the next four years honouring women and their achievements in shaping the nation’s history.
Additional honourees this year will be physicist and first woman astronaut Sally Ride, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Also honoured this year will be 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.
The Biden administration announced soon after taking office that it planned to renew an Obama administration plan to replace slave-owning seventh president of the US Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 note with abolitionist Harriet Tubman, a leader in the Underground Railroad which helped ferry escaped slaves north.
Since that announcement, the Biden administration has provided no further details on its plans.