The United States Mint has started shipping quarters featuring the images of poet Maya Angelou.
The coin is part of the American Women Quarters Program. Under this initiative, a total of 20 coins will be issued over the next four years depicting women who have a lasting legacy in American history.
Democrat Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who sponsored the legislation that led to the program, celebrated the inaugural coin’s distribution.
“This coin will ensure generations of Americans learn about Maya Angelou’s books and poetry that spoke to the lived experience of Black women,” she said in a statement.
Angelou was an American poet and civil rights activist who was known for her autobiography “I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings” which was published in 1969.
On the coin, Angelou is depicted with her arms outstretched with a bird and a rising sun behind her. The design, from artist Emily Damstra and sculpted by United States Mint Medallic Artist Craig A. Campbell, draws on images from her poetry.
The traditional bust of President George Washington will still appear on the other side of the coin.
“Each 2022 quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments being celebrated throughout this historic coin program,” said Mint Deputy Director Ventris C. Gibson in a statement on Jan. 10. “Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift.”
Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen echoed the same sentiment in her own statement.
“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,” she said. “I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”
The program will also create coins this year that include images of first woman astronaut Sally Ride, the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools Nina Otero-Warren, and the first Chinese American film star Anna May Wong, as well as the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Mankiller.
The coins will be released every other month through October of 2022.
The United States Mint is the nation’s sole manufacturer of legal tender coinage. It was created by Congress in 1792 and became a part of the Department of the Treasury in 1873. In addition to coins, it also produces commemorative coins, Congressional Gold Medals, and silver and bronze medals.