Black Women on U.S Currency

One of the biggest honors in the country is to have one’s image on coinage. One of the earliest and only ways for the public to recognize Black greatness, contribution, and value is through the depiction of free Black individuals in a positive light on commemorative coinage.

The idea of a black woman appearing prominently on our country’s paper money was, until recently, a pipe dream that would soon become a reality, similar to the election of the first African-American president eight years ago.

Maya Angelou was the first Black woman on a U.S coin

The Quarter

The Quarter is the 25-cent coin used in the U.S. The nation’s first president, George Washington, is depicted on the Quarter’s (heads) side. Since 1932, he has been on the Quarter. The Quarter where he was right right-facing was created in 2022.

Washington and Congress previously rejected coin designs that included our presidents while evaluating the plans for the first American coinage. They were too much reminded of British coinage with their queen or monarch on them.

Black women on the Quarter

As of 2022, we have Black women on the Quarter! The tails (back) design undergoes frequent alteration. Five alternative designs are now available (2022) as a part of the American Women Quarters Program. The program recognizes the achievements made by American women in this nation. Along with Wilma Mankiller and Anna May Wong, Maya Angelou became the first African-American woman to appear on a 25-cent coin.

American author, performer, and professor, Maya Angelou was most well-known for her poems and several biographies, mainly I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970).

After Maya Angelou

The U.S. Mint unveiled five additional women on April 4 to appear on the Quarter in 2023 after author Maya Angelou became the first African-American woman to appear on the 25-cent piece. Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to acquire a pilot’s license, was one of the women. Jovita Idar, Edith Kanaka’ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Maria Tallchief are some of the others.

Black women on U.S currency

The first Black woman to obtain a pilot’s license was Bessie Coleman. She rose to fame due to her aerial tricks and flying stunts, and she was a pioneer in shattering glass ceilings and racial boundaries.

American paper currency 

As of 2022, the U.S. Treasury has confirmed that Harriet Tubman’s $20 bill is on track to launch to the public in 2030. Andrew Jackson is currently on the $20 bill. He enslaved people and mistreated the Native Americans. However, there is controversy over having Tubman replace Jackson. Some believe former President Donald Trump held up the process because he disapproved of Tubman replacing Jackson and felt she should be on another bill, such as the $2. There is also talk of Tubman’s face being on the reserve side (back) to please those opposed to removing Andrew Jackson. 

President Biden is trying to speed up the process, but According to the U.S. Treasury, Every dollar bill is set to change in design by 2034, but each has a different projected release year — $10 (2026); $5 (2028); $20 (2030); $50 (2032); and $100 (2034).  

Presidents with enslaved people on currency

Should we get George Washington’s face off the quarter and dollar bills; he enslaved people? What about Thomas Jefferson? He is on the nickel and the $10 money; he owned slaves?. Slaves also belonged to Madison and Monroe.

Tubman on the $20?

The grassroots effort to place a “noteworthy” woman on our $20 bill, known as the “Women on the $20 campaign,” started in 2015. They believed that women needed to be represented on our currency to tell our complete history and that the history depicted on our banknotes by solely old white men was insufficient. When the public was asked to vote on who should be on our $20 bill, almost 600,000 people had to make a difficult decision in just ten weeks. Every voting round ended in victory for Tubman.

Harriet Tubman prototype for the $20

However, a nine-year-old Cambridge girl called Sofia wrote a letter to President Barack Obama last year, which some say is where it all started. Rosa Parks, Abigail Adams, and Harriet Tubman were mentioned as three excellent choices when she questioned why there aren’t any women on American currency. Mother of, Sofia disclosed the letter:

“I am writing to know why there isn’t many women on the dollars/coins for the United States. I think there should be more women on a dollar/coin for the United States because if there were no women, there wouldn’t be men. Also, there are many women that could be on dollars/coins for the United States because of the important things they done.

Please write back.”

Sofia.

President Obama wrote in his response, which Time exclusively published alongside Sofia’s original note. 

"Thank you for writing to me with such a good idea last summer. The women you listed and drew make up an impressive group, and I must say you're pretty impressive too. I'll keep working to make sure you grow up in a country where women have the same opportunities as men." - President Barrack Obama 

Conclusion

Thankfully Maya Angelou and Bessie Coleman are and will be recognized on the Quarter. This time, let’s hope real progress is accomplished with Harriet Tubman’s $20 bill. Paper bills are substantially more challenging to design and produce than coins due to mandated anti-counterfeiting requirements. 

Sources

U.S. Treasury confirms Harriet Tubman $20 bill is coming — but here’s why …. https://news.yahoo.com/us-treasury-confirms-harriet-tubman-191704753.html

Obama Responds To Girl’s Letter About Women on Money. https://collegecandy.com/2015/04/01/obama-responds-to-girls-letter-asking-why-there-are-no-women-on-us-currency/

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