Earliest Known African American Figures in Postal History
William H. Carney
William Carney was the first African American to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. He received the medal on May 23, 1900 for the bravery he displayed in the Civil War, where he was a member of Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry.(1) He became a letter carrier in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and served there from 1869 until 1901.(2)
John W. Curry
John Curry is believed to be the first African American letter carrier.
He worked in the Washington, DC post office for thirty-two years
beginning in 1867. Curry was an active member of the National
Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and consequently his obituary
appeared in the June 1899 issue of the NALC’s monthly publication, The Postal Record.
The article emphasized his “steadfast devotion to duty” and his concern
for carriers’ rights. Curry’s efforts to “open the way for
admission to other colored [sic] carriers” and his active participation
in political affairs were also applauded in the April 29, 1899 issue of
the African American newspaper, The Washington Bee.(3)
David W. Washington
David Washington is identified in Marshall Cushing’s book, The Story of Our Post Office as “one of the first colored men to be employed in the mail service in Memphis,” Tennessee.(4)
Isaac Myers was the first known African American postal inspector. He served from 1870 until 1879. During his employment he helped solve a number of notorious cases.(5)
Zachary T. “Z. T.” Fletcher
Zachary Fletcher was the first postmaster of the Nicodemus, Kansas, an
African American settlement established during Reconstruction. He
was appointed on September 12, 1877. His wife also served as
postmaster of the Kansas Post Office from 1889 until 1894.
James W. Mason
James Mason was the earliest known African American postmaster. He was appointed postmaster of Sunny Side, Arkansas on February 22, 1867.
George B. Hamlet
George Hamlet was the first African American to have been appointed Chief Postal Inspector. He was appointed on August 3, 1897.
Minnie M. Cox
Minnie Cox was
the first known African American female postmaster. She was postmaster
of Indianola, Mississippi from January 1891 until April 1893. She
also served from May 1897 until February 1904.(6)
Joseph A. Clarke
Joseph Clarke was the first African American to be appointed Special
Assistant to the Assistant Postmaster General of the Bureau of
Operations. He was appointed on November 9, 1954 and served until
the early 1960’s. His responsibilities included advising the
Department staff on the Federal Employment Policy for assuring equal
Leslie N. Shaw
Leslie Shaw was the first African American postmaster in a major American city. He was appointed on October 1, 1964 as Postmaster of the Los Angeles, California, Post Office.(8)
Ronald B. Lee
Ronald Lee was the first African American to be appointed Assistant Postmaster General, when he was appointed APMG of Planning and Marketing in 1969 by Postmaster General Winton M. Blount.(9)
Emmett E. Cooper, Jr.
Emmett Cooper was the first African American to become Regional Postmaster General. He was named Eastern Regional Postmaster General in 1977.(10)
Bonnie F. Guiton
Bonnie Guiton became the first African American woman member of the Postal Rate Commission on December 15, 1985.(12)
George E. Johnson
George Johnson was the first African American governor of the Postal Service. He served from 1971 until 1974.(12)
6) “The Constitutional Status of Afro-Americans into the 21st Century”, 28.