BHM: Maya Angelou quarter to be shipped out until 2025


Molly Gregory

Maya Angelou will be featured on the quarter until 2025. Graphic by Molly Gregory.

Kaelin Gaydos

Civil rights activist and renowned author and poet, Mary Angelou, has become the first Black woman to appear on the American quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program. 

Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. She published countless works of poetry, multiple autobiographies and several essays. Angelou also wrote a few plays, movies and television shows. Some of her most famous works include “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Still I Rise,” both of which shed light on racism and living in a prejudiced society. 

Her work paved the way for many more Black artists to gain the recognition they deserve, as well as inspired them to keep creating and fight against the racism faced. Her works shed light on what it was like to grow up in segregated America. 

Maya Angelou overcame several forms of abuse and racism early on, facing a traumatic childhood. She eventually took up poetry and other forms of writing as an expressive outlet. To other African American, her voice was inspiring and powerful. The impact her work had on the civil rights movement was, quite simply, monumental. She won three out of her five Grammy nominations and was also nominated for a Pulitzer prize. President Barack Obama presented Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010. 

Maya passed away at the age of 86 on May 28, 2014. Her work and ideas will continue to be carried on for generations to come. One of the ways we honor her is with the new quarter. This is significant because it shows that we are finally showing appreciation for Black artists and women after a history of segregation and discrimination. The progress of the civil rights movement and everything Angelou stood for is shown in this commemoration. 

 The quarter, designed by artist Emily Damstra, is inspired by Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” It depicts a bird with outstretched wings. This is representative of the purple martin, a bird native to Arkansas, which reflects not only the poem but also Angelou’s childhood. Angelou herself  is also shown with her arms outstretched, looking toward the sky. Damstra says that she illustrated Maya this way because she often stood in this position while performing.

Damstra is also currently working on the Anna May Wong quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program.

 This program celebrates accomplishments and contributions made by American women in history. Five new coins will be released each year until 2025, hopefully helping preserve, recognize and celebrate these great American women.