Maya Angelou, beloved poet and activist, is making history yet again — this time, on the back of the U.S. quarter. This posthumous honor makes her the first Black woman to ever be featured on the quarter.
Angelou’s coin is the first of a new shipment of quarters being implemented by the U.S. Mint as part of the American Women Quarters Program. Its purpose is to feature prominent women in U.S. history on the backs of quarters, which will be released periodically through 2025.
Other women to be featured in 2022 (as more will be introduced each year) include Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong.
Angelou’s coin was designed by Emily Damstra, an artist for the United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program, and sculpted by Craig A. Campbell. The design (shown above) depicts Angelou in front of a bird, a nod to her famous autobiographical work “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” which is, in turn, a reference to her prior poem “Caged Bird.”
“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 C. Gibson in the announcement for the new quarter. Along with the press release, the U.S. Mint published a YouTube video showing the B-roll of the quarter’s production.
While the quarter undeniably makes history, some people wish Angelou was given a recognition worth more than 25 cents. Whoopi Goldberg, a famous Black woman making history in her own right, spoke directly to “America” when voicing her opinion.
“You don’t think this is gonna make folks feel a little bit uncomfortable?” Goldberg asked. “We wanted a $20 bill. Now you have all of these powerful women, and you put them all on quarters? Come on.”
The $20 bill she mentioned was referring to a plan within the Treasury Department to replace former slave owner Andrew Jackson with Black abolitionist Harriet Tubman. However, according to The Washington Post, that process has been incredibly slow and no promises to speed it up have been upheld by the Biden administration.
While the U.S. Mint has a history of recognizing Black women on the money it produces, Goldberg sees the shift of focus from the $20 bill to the quarter as a downgrade for Black history and implores the government for more.