Legendary poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou will be the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter. The quarter will be shipped to banks as soon as next Monday, Jan. 17.
The Maya Angelou design is the first quarter in the "American Women Quarters Program," a U.S. Mint program that will feature prominent women in U.S. history for the next four years.
Maya Angelou was a celebrated and legendary writer, performer, and social activist. Her groundbreaking autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, catapulted her career after being published in 1969. She went on to write more than 30 best-selling works of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.
Angelou was always a huge part of the arts community. She appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway plays, including Cabaret for Freedom which she wrote with Godfrey Cambridge. At the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she served as northern coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1978, she was a National Book Award judge for biography and autobiography.
During the 1992 inauguration of President Clinton, Maya Angelou famously recited “On the Pulse of Morning." The reading marked the first time an African American woman wrote and presented a poem at a presidential inauguration. She was also only the second poet in history to do so— Robert Frost recited a poem at President Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.
During her lifetime, Angelou received more than 30 honorary degrees and was inducted into the Wake Forest University Hall of Fame for Writers. In 2010, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also the 2013 recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.
It's no wonder that such a prominent, revered, world-renowned woman would be chosen as the first Black woman to appear on the U.S. quarter.
In addition to Maya Angelou, other honorees in the program include astronaut Sally Ride, Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong, suffragist and politician Nina Otero-Warren, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
According to the Mint, quarters featuring the other honorees will be shipped out this year through 2025.