Classic movie star Anna May Wong becomes 1st Asian American featured on U.S. currency

Anna May Wong
(Image credit: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

A new U.S. coin will make history by honoring a trailblazing movie star.

U.S. Mint has announced it will start shipping quarters featuring an image of actress Anna May Wong, making her the first Asian American ever featured on U.S. currency. Wong, who died in 1961, starred in more than 60 films beginning in the silent era and became the first Chinese American movie star in Hollywood.

This coin will be the fifth of 2022 that's part of the American Women Quarters Program celebrating distinguished women, including Maya Angelou.

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Wong, whose films include 1932's Shanghai Express, had to deal with racism in Hollywood throughout her career. She was largely unable to star as the lead in romance movies due to restrictions on the depiction of ​​interracial relationships, and was denied the role of a Chinese woman in 1937's The Good Earth, which instead went to a white actor, The New York Times notes. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

Designer Emily Damstra said in a statement that the coin was made to look like Wong is surrounded by lights resembling a movie theater marquee.

"The fifth coin in our American Women Quarters Program honors Anna May Wong, a courageous advocate who championed for increased representation and more multi-dimensional roles for Asian American actors," U.S. Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson said. "This quarter is designed to reflect the breadth and depth of accomplishments by Anna May Wong, who overcame challenges and obstacles she faced during her lifetime."

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) celebrated the news, noting Wong "faced constant discrimination, frequently being typecast and passed over for lead roles in favor of non-Asian actresses," but "in the face of adversity, she kept going and became an internationally renowned actress."

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