Maya Angelou becomes the first black woman to appear on a US quarter

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The US Treasury has minted coins featuring poet Maya Angelou - the first black woman ever featured on the US quarter.
The US Treasury has minted coins featuring poet Maya Angelou - the first black woman ever featured on the US quarter.
Aaron Rapoport

She was a trailblazer, a woman who marched to her own beat, a dancer, poet and author whose works inspired, and continue to inspire millions around the world.

She received many awards for her work and activism in her lifetime and now Maya Angelou has become the first black woman to appear on the United State's 25 cents, known as a quarter.

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The new quarter depicts the poet with open and outstretched arms. Behind her is a flying bird and rising sun, which are "inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived", the US treasury department said.

The front side of the quarter shows the traditional bust of George Washington, the country's first president.

The move was lauded by the nation's first female treasury secretary.

"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," Janet Yellen said in a statement.

Maya rose to fame after the publication of her groundbreaking autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The African-American writer was also known for her lyrical prose and regal speaking voice. 

In a decades-long career, she went on to write more than 30 bestselling works and received dozens of honorary degrees.

Maya was the first black woman to write and perform a poem at a presidential inauguration and in  2010 she was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian award, by President Barack Obama.

Born in Missouri in 1928, the essayist and poet also lived a life of activism, working with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement.  

She passed away in 2014 at the age of 86 having fulfilled her own advice, “Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.”

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The US Mint plans to issue 20 more quarters over the next four years, depicting other American women who played important roles in the country's history, as part of the American Women Quarters program.

Coins are also planned for other pioneering women this year including Sally Ride, the first female US astronaut; Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation and a campaigner for indigenous rights; and Anna May Wong, who is considered the first Chinese-American film star in Hollywood, the US Mint said.

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