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Episode 25 – Maya Angelou Quarter

 

Photo – U.S. Mint

Maya Angelou Quarter
U.S. Mint American Women Quarters

Maya Angelou Quarter – Yes, quarters from U.S. Mint American Women series are here! The long awaited quarter series has started with Dr. Maya Angelou.  The image of Dr. Angelou captures her spirit with her arms reaching toward a sunrise spanning the sky.  Her love of dance and writing clearly comes through.

The obverse side of the quarter featured on the American Women series

The U.S. Mint has also change the obverse side of the quarter for the American Women series, featuring a portrait of George Washington facing right. You’ll notice that quarters usually have Washington facing left.  This change is in honor of Laura Gardin Fraser who composed and sculpted the design in 1932 to mark Washington’s 200th birthday. What an honor to feature Laura Gardin Fraser’s design on the American Women  series.

Laura Gardin Fraser was one of the most prolific female sculptors of the early 1900’s and became the first woman to design a U.S. coin when she designed the Alabama Centennial Half Dollar  in 1921.  Her George Washington design was used on a 1999 gold commemorative coin marking the 200th anniversary of Pres. Washington’s death.

It is fitting that her Washington design would be on the obverse side of the American Women’s  series of quarters, her name along with the list of distinguished women who will grace the reverse side of the quarter over the five year period of the series, puts her in her rightful place in history.

The left-facing Pres. Washington design we see on quarters in circulation today, was chosen by The Treasury Secretary Mellon.

 

Left facing design of Pres. Washington by John Flanagan is featured on quarters in circulation. 

 

Dr. Maya Angelou starts the series with much excitement and recognition of her place in history as the first black woman with her own coin.

How much do you know about the phenomenal woman – Maya Angelou? In this episode of Quarter Miles Travel, I tell her story.

 

 

Dr. Angelou was also featured on a U.S. Postal stamp.

 

Dr. Angelou inspired a nation with her speech during Pres. Bill Clinton's inauguration.
Maya Angelou delivers her poem “On The Pulse of Morning”, at Pres. Bill Clinton’s Inauguration,  January 20, 1993 in Washington, DC.

 

Here’s an article and  video of Oprah’s joy holding the quarters of her dear friend and mentor. Check out the article, but make sure and scroll down to the video.  Pride and joy!

 

 

Transcription:

A phenomenal woman….

We define her by her character, her demeanor, the way she carries herself even when she thinks no one is watching. 

It’s an individual grace, her inner beauty that shines through to her outer beauty.  

Maya Angelou, a phenomenal woman in all definitions of the words….. she exuded phenomenal and it’s her story I share on this podcast. 

There are words and there are actions. Maya Angelou was a women of both. Her elegant words inspired us and her actions changed lives and push a movement forward.  

On the first American Women’s Series of the U.S. Mint Commemorative quarters is Dr. Maya Angelou. She is on the reverse side or tails side of the quarter.  With her arm reaching up to the rising sun behind her and there is a bird in flight inspired by her poetry and symbolic of the way she lived.   

This is the image design on the first of this series of quarters, starting with a phenomenal woman who has inspired the world.  

A poet, author, motivational speaker, Civil Rights activist, songwriter, dance, singer, playwright, stage & producer, director, historian and mentor to many.

How much do you know about this phenomenal woman who in her 86 years of life accomplished so many extraordinary things.  

Dr. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she and her brother Bailey went to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas.    where she speaks of being terribly hurt, yet vastly loved. 

When she was not yet eight years old, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and told of it, after which he was murdered; the traumatic event, left her feeling responsible for speaking the truth about what happened to her. Frightened by the power of her own words, Angelou chose not to speak for the next five years only to her brother Bailey. She once said she felt – “If I talked to anyone else, that person may die too!”

During the time she was mute, she read every book at the Black school library and every book she could get her hands on from the white school library. From this expiration of literature, she developed a love for poetry and memorized  the works of greats like Shakespear, Edgar Allen Poe and Langston Hughes.  

When she started talking – she would have a lot to say. And You can see how this would inspire her love of writing, poetry and sharing stories of her life and  

She was best known for her seven autobiographical books:

Mom & Me & Mom
Letter to My Daughter
All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes
The Heart of a Woman
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas
Gather Together in My Name

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings she was nominated for the National Book Award for this book, which is the book which introduced me to Dr. Angelou

Her many volumes of poetry are shared and quoted to inspire people each day. Her words have given guidance to those who need to regain their way and joy on days when our sun shines low, hope for things not yet gained and happiness with knowing the words of wisdom are always there to guide and inspire.  

Maya Angelou wrote several children’s books –

 My Painted House,
My Friendly Chicken and Me
Life Doesn’t Frighten Me (1998)
 Maya’s World series, published in 2004–05 featuring stories of children from around the world.

Her poetry
A Brave and Startling Truth
I Shall Not Be Moved
Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?
Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well
Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Die – which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Maya Angelou’s love of creative expression was not just with her words. Not only did words on paper bring her out of silence and foster a love of reading poetry and stories, she was a young lady who loved to sing and dance. 

While living in San Francisco she began taking dance lessons, eventually auditioning for professional theater. 

At the young age of 16 her plans were put on hold when she had a son. She moved to San Diego, worked as a nightclub waitress, tangled with drugs and prostitution and danced in a strip club. Ironically, the strip club saved her career: She was discovered there by a theater group.

It was as a dancer that she assumed her professional name. She studied with Martha Graham and Pearl Primus. 

When she Moved to New York City  in the late 1950s, Angelou found encouragement for her literary talents at the Harlem Writers’ Guild. 

She met and became part of a group of Black literary greats.

In 1961, she moved to Egypt and edited for the Arab Observer. 

She headed to Ghana, where a car accident severely injured her son. While caring for him in Ghana, she took a job at the African Review, where she stayed for several years and put off her plans to go to Liberia. Her writing and personal development flourished under the African cultural renaissance that was taking place during that time.

Acting was on the horizon for her too.  She landed a featured role in a state department-sponsored production of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess, touring some 22 countries in Europe and Africa.  She also performed in Jean Genet’s play The Blacks.  

When she returned to California she wrote Black, Blues, Black which aired in 1968 in a 10-part television series about the role of African culture in American life. 

She became the first women to have a screenplay produced as a feature film with her drama Georgia, Georgia in 1972.  

Maya Angelou continued to perform in several movies – Poetic Justice in 1993, How to Make an American Quilt in 1995, Roots in 1977 and Look Away in 1973 where she was nominated for a Tony Award. 

Her passion and love for the arts also took her to the director’s role in Down in the Delta in 1998. 

While her creative artist life was fulfilled with many great opportunities and brilliant successes, she never loss site of the needs of her community.

In 1959, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Angelou became the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was drawn to his stance on non-violence. She raised money for the SCLC. 

In 1974 she was appointed by Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission and later by Jimmy Carter to the Commission for International Woman of the Year. 

President Clinton inspired us all by asking Dr. Angelou to write and deliver a poem – “On the Pulse of the Morning” at his inauguration.  

In 2000, she was award the National Medal of Arts, and in 2010 Pres. Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

She accepted a lifetime appointment in 1982 as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

The first black woman director in Hollywood, Angelou wrote, produced, directed, and starred in productions for stage, film, and television. In 1971, she wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia, and was both author and executive producer of a five-part television miniseries “Three Way Choice.” She also wrote and produced several prize-winning documentaries, including “Afro-Americans in the Arts,” a PBS special for which she received the Golden Eagle Award. Angelou was twice nominated for a Tony award for acting: once for her Broadway debut in Look Away (1973), and again for her performance in Roots (1977).

She celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in the poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” 

In 2013 she wrote a tribute to Nelson Mandela in the poem “His Day Is Done”, commissioned by the U.S. State Department released at the time of his death.

Little known facts about this phenomenal woman –

Her last name Angelou – she married Tosh Angelos – who was a lover of literature too.  

She was good friends with  – James Baldwin

Dr. King was killed on her birthday – April 4th – She said it was one of the most devastating days of her life.

She taught Calypso to people she met and not only danced but also sang. She released an album – Miss Clyaspo in 1957

She performed at the Appallo theatre 

During her time living in Ghana she drove a little white fiat that she called her covered bicycle

She was a streetcar conductor in San Francisco – the 1st black street car conductor and she was a teenager.

She worked with Nick Ashford and Valarie Simpson.

She danced with Alvin Alley  – dancing and writing were her to great loves.

She won grammies… yes grammies – For then spoken word Album 1994 -1996 and 2003

And, she was the 1st black woman Directors Guild of America

My personal story of Maya Angelou began as a young girl. I wasn’t a teen and knew very little about how other people on the other side of the continent lived their lives. I knew my family and people who lived around the neighborhoods of my relatives who lived in Atlanta…. People near my aunt’s house or my grandmother home gave me further insight into the lives outside of my world. Yet, when I picked up  “I know Why The Caged Bird Sings” my world and my heart opened to know more, understand and I grew up a bit too.  I want to never stop reading her book.  Fascinated by the title I learned how words can tell stories in how you use them. Words have power and can express thoughts, feelings, actions… beyond what I had known.

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Angelou at a fundraiser in Atlanta, at Alderman Marvin Arrington’s home. She sat and talked, sharing wisdom that only she could impart.  I told her that I read her book as a young girl, and it gave me a new outlook on people and their lives. We all live different lives. But there is so much that we have in common and that’s what we should celebrate.  

Angelou died on May 28, 2014, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  She was 86 years old.  

Dr. Angelou said – “Your legacy is the lives you touch..”

What a woman… what a legacy…

Thank you to 

Biography .com  
https://www.biography.com/writer/maya-angelou

mayaangelou.com
Website – https://www.mayaangelou.com/own/

NPR – His Day Is Done – Nelson Mandela 

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/12/07/249439677/watch-maya-angelous-poem-for-nelson-mandela

Womens history .org – https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/maya-angelou

Poets. Org.  https://poets.org/poet/maya-angelou

California Museum – Hall of Fame

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets, Washington, D.C. the museum will display a portrait of Angelou by Ross Rossin

–Museum of Tolerance – Angelou’s life journey is on display in an exhibition called “Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves.”

For more information about the American Women Quarter Series –
www.USMint.gov

Subscribe to our podcast for updates

Reach in your pocket and take out a quarter – and Quarter Miles Travel Will take it from there, we’ll turn that quarter into an adventure.

Other Quarter Miles Travel episodes to check out:
Tuskegee Airmen
Whitney Plantation 

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