An African American ‘Lady Liberty’


The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin marks the first time that Liberty will be portrayed as a black woman. (Washington Post)

Why gold coins? Why not?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin will be released in April and probably sell for about $1,500.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Mint

Discussion Ideas

  • Why is the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin so innovative?
    • This is the first time the U.S. Mint has depicted Lady Liberty, an allegory of freedom, as a black woman. Liberty is almost always portrayed as a woman, and almost always European.
      • We boldly look to the future by casting Liberty in a new light, as an African-American woman wearing a crown of stars, looking forward to ever brighter chapters in our Nation’s history book,” says the Mint.
    • This coin is part of a series that will “depict an allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms—including designs representing Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Indian-Americans among others—to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.”
    • It’s the first coin released during the U.S. Mint’s 225th anniversary, and the first to depict the “Remembering our Post, Embracing the Future” anniversary theme.


  • William Gibbs, the managing editor of Coin World magazine, says the “United States is a truly diverse nation, united in our love of Liberty, so it is only fitting that Liberty be portrayed in many guises that are representative of all Americans and not just in the classic forms used in the past.” If you were going to design a “Liberty” coin, how would you represent liberty? (Teachers, this could be a fun activity!)
    • What does liberty mean to you?
      • freedom?
      • independence?
      • self-determination?
    • What symbol, allegory, person, or other idea best depicts your interpretation of liberty?
      • a person? real or allegorical?
      • what age?
      • what ethnicity?
      • what gender?
      • what clothes are they wearing?
        • a crown?
        • robes?
        • a suit or dress?
      • are they smiling?
      • is it a front-facing image or profile?
    • Assuming the words “liberty”, “In God We Trust”, and the coin’s denomination will be engraved, would you have other language on your liberty coin?
    • What image would you have on the reverse? The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin has an eagle in flight.
      • an animal?
        • in motion or sitting still?
      • a landscape?
      • an historical scene or monument?


  • When can we start using these $100 gold coins?
    • Although the coins are legal tender, we probably won’t be using them anytime soon. The coins will be released in April, and will target a niche market: coin collectors. Each coin will be sold initially for about $1,500, but their value could increase. The 1915-S Pan-Pacific $50 gold coin, for example, has sold for more than $100,000 at auction.


  • Why does the U.S. Mint produce collectible coins like the 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin?
    • It’s a small but reliable source of revenue from the mint, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The mint will make money on the sale of the coins (which cost less than $1,500 to produce).


  • So, collectible coins generate revenue for the Treasury Department. Why did production stop on $1 coins? Check out our quick study guide on dollar coins for some help.
    • Demand was very low, with up to 40% of the currency returned to the Federal Reserve. Phasing out dollar coins and sticking to dollar bills would allegedly save the Treasury Department $50 million a year. “We shouldn’t be wasting money on money,” said former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.
      • Many economists say the coins are far from a waste. They could save billions of dollars. It costs about 18 cents to manufacture a dollar coin, compared to about 10 cents for a dollar bill. Coins, however, last more than 20 times longer than bills. Fewer coins need to be manufactured, saving money over years.



Washington Post: Lady Liberty is ‘modeled after our society’s continued evolution.’ In this new coin, she is black.

U.S. Department of the Treasury: Unveiling the Future of Liberty

Nat Geo: Dollar Coins—’Wasting money on money’?

One thought on “An African American ‘Lady Liberty’

Leave a Reply