Circulation of the first American coins with Maya Angelou

New 25 cent coins featuring Maya Angelou have been minted and are released into circulation. | PHOTO: AFP/Handout

NEW YORK — Maya Angelou, an African-American poet and activist, has officially joined a select group of Americans to be listed on United States government currency, U.S. officials announced Monday.

Angelou, author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” will be the first character commemorated under the American Women Quarters program, which was signed into law in January 2021.

The U.S. Mint “has begun shipping the first coins” featuring Angelou’s likeness on the U.S. quarter, a 25-cent coin, according to a news release from the agency.

“I am honored to present our country’s first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history,” said Ventris Gibson, Deputy Director of the Mint.

“Each quarter of 2022 is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of the achievements celebrated throughout this historic coin program. Maya Angelou, pictured on the reverse of this first coin in the series, used words to inspire and uplift.

The program directs the United States Mint to issue quarters each year between 2022 and 2025 featuring five different female pioneers who have contributed to the country.

For the past 90 years, the neighborhood has featured the nation’s first president, George Washington, on one side, and an eagle on the other.

The new neighborhoods — which were hit in Philadelphia and Denver — show Washington on one side and Angelou on the other.

Others to receive this honor in 2022 are: Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space; Wilma Mankiller, the Cherokee Nation’s first female Principal Chief; Nina Otero-Warren, a New Mexico suffrage leader and Anna May Wong, a Chinese-American movie star.

Angelou, born in Missouri in 1928, was a well-known essayist and poet who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the civil rights movement.

Angelou, who delivered the poem at former President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, died in 2014.

READ: University: Poet and author Maya Angelou dies at 86

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also signaled her support for recognizing former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the US currency.

Former President Barack Obama started a project to put Tubman’s face on the $20 bill, but it stalled under Donald Trump’s administration.

Putting Tubman, a black woman who escaped slavery and became a leader of the pre-Civil War abolitionist movement, on the $20 bill would be an “honour,” but banknote design takes time, Yellen said in September.

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