Lady Liberty will finally be portrayed as a woman of color on the country’s newest coin, a historic departure the U.S. Mint and Treasury announced Thursday.
Mint spokesperson Mike White confirmed to Fusion that the new coin, which features a black woman, will be the first time Lady Liberty has been depicted as a woman of color on a U.S. coin.
The Coinage Act of 1792 required that all U.S. coins contain an image “emblematic of liberty.” On the coins that Americans use every day–quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies–the word “liberty” is stamped next to a white (and male) president’s bust. On coins that have featured Lady Liberty’s likeness, she’s been depicted as a white woman.
But because the coin is commemorative–it’s made of 24-karat and has a $100 face value to mark the U.S. Mint’s 225th birthday–it’s meant for collectors, so you won’t be seeing this one in circulation any time soon.
“Our coins are the metallic footprints of our nation’s history and symbolize what America values and what America honors,” U.S. Mint chief of staff Elisa Basnight said before the coin was unveiled.
After the announcement, some commenters on the U.S. Mint’s official Facebook page criticized the design, calling the image of a black woman wearing a crown of stars “ugly” and criticizing it as “politically correct.”
Although choosing to depict Lady Liberty as a black woman is certainly a step in the right direction, there’s still work to do. Women are still woefully underrepresented on U.S. currency, especially paper bills. Last year, the Treasury committed to putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill–rather than the $10–after an online campaign and months of controversy.