A new neighborhood featuring legendary poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and other pioneer American women officially began shipping to banks on Monday, the US Mint said. Angelou is the first black woman to appear on the trimester.
Maya Angelou’s drawing is the first quarter of the American Women Quarters Program, a four-year program that will feature pieces depicting prominent women in US history.
Other winners include astronaut Sally Ride; actress Anna May Wong; suffragist and politician Nina Otero-Warren; and Wilma Mankiller, the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Coins representing the other winners will ship this year until 2025, according to the Mint.
Angelou, who died in 2014 at the age of 86, held numerous distinctions. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama and won the Literarian Award (an honorary National Book Award). In 1992, she became the first black woman (and the second poet in history) to write and present a poem at a presidential inauguration, in 1992. She has also held more than 30 honorary degrees and published more than 30 successful works.
“Each quarter of 2022 is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of achievement celebrated throughout this historic coin program. Maya Angelou, featured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and elevate, “Mint deputy director Ventris C. Gibson said in a statement.
The Angelou district shows the writer and poet on the “front” side of the room, arms raised. Behind her, a bird and the rising sun. La Monnaie says these images are “inspired by her poetry and symbolic of how she lived”.
The “heads” side features a portrait of George Washington by a female sculptor who was first recommended to the Mint in 1932. At the time, it chose a design by John Flanagan to represent Washington.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen celebrated the new coins, praising how America has “come as a society.”
“I am very proud that these pieces celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou,” Yellen said in a separate statement.
Several lawmakers, such as California Democratic Representative Barbara Lee and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, applauded the release of the new piece on Monday.
“The phenomenal women who have shaped American history have gone too long unrecognized – especially women of color,” Lee said in an Tweeter. “Proud to have led this bill to honor their legacy.”
Lee was instrumental in introducing the Circulating Collector’s Coin Recast Act, 2020; the law was passed in january 2021 and essentially paved the way for the design of the new commemorative coins.
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