The U.S. Mint debuted the American Women Quarters™ Program this month and Mother Maya Angelou is the first woman in the series. In fact, she’s the first Black woman to ever appear on a U.S. coin. The AWQ Program was sponsored by Rep Barbara Lee and is is a bipartisan effort with Republicans Rep. Anthony Gonzalez and Sen. Deb Fischer and Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez.
The coin depicts Dr. Angelou on the “tails” side, with her arms uplifted. Behind her are a bird and the rising sun; images “inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived.” The flip side of the coin is a portrait of George Washington; designed by Laura Gardin Fraser, the first woman to design a U.S. commemorative coin. According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, “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. I’m very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”
The last time a woman appeared on U.S. currency was nearly twenty years ago. At that time, the 50 State Quarters Program featured Helen Keller on the Alabama state quarter. The AWQ program will issue 20 quarters over the next four years; honoring women who shaped the nation’s history. Other honorees we’ll see this year include, Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong.
Fortunately, Black women are still making history in 2022; even if posthumously. Which begs the question; whatever happened to that Harriet Tubman $20?