Maya Angelou, The First Black Woman on the U.S. Quarter


Elena Nasar and Avery Kalter, Writer

Money is something we use on an everyday basis. Buying a sandwich at the deli? Get out your wallet, it’s time to pay. Shopping for a new dress for a glamorous night out? Time to spend some money. One important image that we do not see on most currency is a woman, or more specifically a black woman on the front of our beloved coins. Change is happening, however!  The renowned poet,  Maya Angelou, will make her mark on the world as the first black woman on the quarter. It has been confirmed that the U.S mint has begun shipping the quarters to U.S banks.


Maya Angelou was a talented poet and civil rights activist who made an unprecedented impact on our country. She published seven autobiographies, three-book essays, several books of poetry, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Her famous memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells of the abuse and racism she experienced in her childhood. She has received several awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. The changing of the currency is a chance to share our countries values. “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,” says U.S.Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The quarter is the first in a collection of coins designed to celebrate the accomplishments of American women. Anna May Wong, known to be the first Chinese American movie star, and Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly to space, will also get their own coins.


Angelou died in 2014, just years before she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a top-tier award that was given to her by former President Barack Obama. Washington Post’s reporter Emma Brown described Angelou as, “a child of the Jim Crow South who rose to international prominence as a writer known for her frank chronicles of personal history and a performer instantly identified by her regal presence and rich, honeyed voice.” 


Maya Angelou’s quarter is just one example of how we have grown as a society and how impactful Maya Angelou and many other American women have been to the United States. This new coin reflects not only female empowerment but also promises us a future of change.