The story of the new Maya Angelou quarter was all over media this week. It's always nice to see mainstream coverage of numismatics - here's an excerpt from a New York Times piece.
The writer and poet Maya Angelou has become the first Black woman to have her likeness depicted on the quarter, the first in a series of coins commemorating pioneering American women that began shipping this week, the U.S. Mint announced Monday.
It is my honor to present our nation's first circulating coins dedicated to celebrating American women and their contributions to American history, Ventris C. Gibson, the deputy director of the Mint, said in a statement.
Maya Angelou, she added,
used words to inspire and uplift.
Ms. Angelou's landmark 1969 memoir,
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, documented her childhood in the Jim Crow South and was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century Black woman to reach a wide general readership.
Ms. Angelou, who died in 2014 at 86, was
one of the brightest lights of our time — a brilliant writer, a fierce friend and a truly phenomenal woman, Mr. Obama said at the time.
The quarter featuring her likeness — created by Emily Damstra, a designer, and Craig A. Campbell, a medallic artist — depicts Ms. Angelou with her arms uplifted, in front of a bird in flight and rays of sunlight streaking out from behind her. The images were both
inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived, the Mint said.
Ms. Angelou is featured on the
tails side of the 25-cent piece; the
heads side includes a portrait of George Washington.
The coin is the first in the American Women Quarters Program, a four-year effort in which the Mint will issue five quarters a year to honor women in fields including women's suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science and the arts. 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 in Hollywood.
To read the complete article, see:
Maya Angelou Becomes First Black Woman on a Quarter
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
2022 AMERICAN WOMEN QUARTERS DESIGNS
Every publication put their own spin on the story. Greek Reporter answered the question, "why did she have a distinctly Greek last name?"
Likely one of the most famous modern American poets, Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928 to Bailey Johnson, a Navy dietitian and doorman, and Vivian Johnson, a nurse.
It was in California that Angelou met Greek-American Anastasios
Tosh Angelos, an electrician, former sailor, and musician. The two married in 1951, just three years after interracial marriage became legal in the state.
The marriage faced a number of hurdles. The poet's mother did not approve of the interracial relationship, and the couple had major spiritual differences — Angelos was an staunch atheist, while Angelou was devoutly religious.
Despite these factors, the couple stayed married for three years, until they eventually divorced in 1954. Despite their divorce, Angelou decided to keep her first husband's last name.
To read the complete article, see:
The Story Behind Maya Angelou's Greek Last Name
Wayne Homren, Editor
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