Blacks on Stamps: A Celebration of Black History Makers

On April 7, 1940, the Post Office Department (POD) issued a stamp honoring African-American educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) as part of its Famous Americans Series. The nation's first stamp to honor an African-American, it holds a unique place in American history. Social, economic, and legislative struggles since 1940 have produced deeper understanding and acceptance among racial groups. Today, the United States Postal Service (USPS) regularly honors African-Americans and their widely varied contributions to the nation and the world.     

Born a slave in Hale's Ford, Virginia, Washington served as a role model for other struggling African-Americans, and, as founder of Alabama's Tuskegee Normal Industrial School (renamed Tuskegee Institute in 1937), he profoundly influenced the

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community's self-esteem and self-reliance. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, responding to numerous petitions from African-American supporters, recognized the timeliness of such a stamp and directed that Washington be considered for this important stamp series. 

Major Robert Richard Wright, Sr., among others, had aggressively lobbied for a stamp honoring Booker T. Washington since Roosevelt took office in 1933. When Wright read the POD's decision to feature Washington on the 10¢ stamp, announced in 1939, he reflected with gratification, [the stamp] "comes pretty nearly within the limit of seventy-five years of Negro Emancipation.”  

This exhibit is in honor of the many extraordinary Black women and men who overcame enslavement, racism and discrimination to become cultural icons and pioneers in virtually every field of study. These Black History Makers have left a legacy of achievement to be admired and replicated. We hope that this exhibit inspires you to aspire for greatness. 

Source: National Postal Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Additional Resources:
Where Every Month Is Black History Month!