Angelou deserves honor by U.S. Mint


Even eight years after her death, Maya Angelou continues to make history having been named the first Black woman to appear on a U.S. quarter.

Angelou was an American poet and civil rights activist best known for her 1969 memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which made literary history as the first non-fiction bestseller by a Black woman.

Angelou received several honors throughout her career, including two NAACP Image Awards in the outstanding literary work non-fiction category in 2005 and 2009.

Her poem “Phenomenal Woman” has served as an inspiration to generations of women. The poem spreads an important message that empowerment comes from being confident in your own skin, no matter if others do not see you as cute or fashionable. Angelou published this in 1978 in “And Still I Rise,” a collection of powerful poems that have been used by different groups involved in protest and political issues around inequality.

Angelou is the first of five women to be featured on the quarter in 2022 as part of

the American Women Quarters Program. The program was authorized by an act of Congress in 2020, which directs the Secretary of the Treasury to produce five quarters per year until the end of 2025 representing “the accomplishments and contributions” of a range of American women in various fields related to politics, science and the arts,” according to Annabelle Timsit of the Washington Post.

This year’s other honorees are Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Wilma Mankiller, a Native American activist, Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American film star.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told NBC News that each time the currency gets redesigned, [Americans] have the chance to say something about our country, our values, and how we’ve progressed as a society.

The quarter was created by designer Emily Damstra and artist Craig A. Campbell. It shows Angelou with her arms raised, a bird flying and a rising sun behind her on one side with a portrait of George Washington on the opposite side.

Angelou was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama, who called Angelou one of the brightest lights of our time, a brilliant writer and a truly phenomenal woman.

In an interview with Livia Albeck- Ripka of the New York Times, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said she continues to cherish the moments she shared with Angelou discussing the challenges Lee faced as a Black woman in elected office. Lee said that people who find themselves holding a Maya Angelou quarter, should remember her words, ‘Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.’

While many will celebrate the first Black woman to be featured on a quarter, others remain focused on a separate effort to add abolitionist Harriet Tubman to the $20 bill, an effort first launched when Obama was president that has been revived by the Biden Administration.

As these efforts continue, there is no question that Angelou is deserving of this honor as she continues to inspire future generations through her literary legacy.