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Maya Angelou. Picture: REUTERS
Maya Angelou. Picture: REUTERS

 The US Mint has started rolling out quarters which feature late American author and activist Maya Angelou, the first Black woman to appear on the coin.

The coin is part of the American Women Quarters programme, which also includes Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American Hollywood film star, the US Mint said.

Angelou rose to international prominence after the publication of her groundbreaking autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, with its unflinching account of rape and racism in the segregated South.

She died in 2014 aged 86. Angelou was born in Missouri in 1928 and became an essayist and poet who worked with Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement. The prolific African-American writer was known for her lyrical prose and regal speaking voice.

At age 7, Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, who was later beaten to death in an assault that some believed was carried out by Angelou’s uncles. The trauma of the rape and her assailant’s death left Angelou mute for six years. She began writing during that period.

“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,” US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“I'm very proud that these coins celebrate the contributions of some of America’s most remarkable women, including Maya Angelou.”

The recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees, Angelou read On the Pulse of Morning at the 1993 inauguration of former president Bill Clinton.

Angelou’s reading marked the first time an African American woman wrote and presented a poem at a presidential inauguration.

In 2010, former president Barack Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and she was the 2013 recipient of the Literarian Award, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community.

The American Women Quarters programme also features Wilma Mankiller, the Cherokee Nation’s first female principal chief; Adelina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement; and Sally Ride, an astronaut and physicist who was the first American woman in space.

The Biden administration has pledged to replace slave-owning seventh president of the US Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 note with abolitionist Harriet Tubman, reports said.



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