African Americans in the Postal Service and Philately

Topical Reference Page
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37c Alvin Ailey and Dancers stamp, 2004

The National Postal Museum celebrates African American history by providing online resources about the role of African Americans in the postal service and philately.

February 15, 2015 - February 15, 2016
Exhibition

A chronicle of the African American experience told from the perspective of stamps and mail. Includes letters carried by enslaved Americans, mail to and from famous leaders of the civil rights movement, and a significant selection of original artwork for the USPS Black Heritage stamp series from the Postmaster General’s Collection.

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Wooden countertop distribution case
Exhibition
On April 1, 1891 John T. Jackson became the postmaster of Alanthus, Virginia. When he began his career, the twenty-nine year old was greeted with threats from those unwilling to accept an African-American in that position. He remained in his job for 49 years, retiring in 1940.
Langston Hughes stamp
Langston Hughes
February 1, 2002 - August 2, 2002
Exhibition

This exhibition of stamps, books, photos, and illustrations honored the life of Harlem Renaissance poet and writer Langston Hughes (1901-1967), known for his lyrical, jazz-tinged interpretations of African American life. The exhibition opened on the 100th anniversary of Hughes' birth and coincides with the United States Postal Service's release of a stamp honoring the writer. This exhibition was part of the "Stamps with Personality" series, which highlighted the achievements of historical figures honored with their likenesses on postage stamps issued by the United States Postal Service.

Research Articles
This article explores the place of letter writing in American history, revealing through the words of its citizens the nature of American life and documenting the country’s search for a uniquely American identity.
October 20, 2010 - July 10, 2011
Exhibition

On view was original art produced by Kadir Nelson for the creation of the Negro Leagues Baseball stamps, which pay tribute to the all-black professional baseball leagues that operated from 1920 to approximately 1960.

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Object Spotlight

While the outside of the saddlebag is innocuous enough, flipping open the mailbags on each side reveal a disturbing reality.

Exhibition

African-Americans on Postage Stamps
Since the founding of the United States, African Americans have played a pivotal role in the shaping of American history and heritage. Their contributions to America have included the fields highlighted by the 1940 Famous Americans and many more. This exhibit showcases the black experience in the United States through the lens of American postage stamps.

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Exhibition

When there were no academic journals to counter racist scholarship, Dr. Carter G. Woodson created one. When no professional presses would accept materials about African Americans, he founded one. Former Smithsonian Fellow Kimberly D. Brown explores Woodson and the origins of Black History Month. Adapted from the National Museum of American History Blog.

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This article explores the unique history and experience of African Americans in America’s Postal Service, illustrating that the United States Postal Service has been both a place where African Americans were discriminated against, and a place where many African Americans found opportunities for advancement.

Related Blogs

Marian Anderson: A Voice of a Lifetime

Marian Anderson—one of the greatest concert and classical singers of the twentieth century—was honored on a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service on January 27, 2005.

African American Troops in World War I: A Military Experience Based on Separate and Unequal Treatment

Despite concerns about racial discrimination in America, African Americans’ enthusiasm for supporting America’s entry in World War I was quite high in 1917. W.E.B Du Bois, one of the leading African American intellectuals of this period, rallied...

Open Through Feb. 15, 2016: "Freedom Just Around the Corner: Black America from Civil War to Civil Rights"

“Freedom Just Around the Corner: Black America from Civil War to Civil Rights” opened February 12 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. The museum’s first exhibition devoted entirely to African American history marks 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery throughout the United States. The exhibition, open through Feb. 15, 2016, chronicles the African American experience through the perspective of stamps and mail.

Col. Noel Parrish: Tuskegee Commander

In December 1942 Lt. Col. Noel Parrish assumed command of the Tuskegee Army Airfield (TAAF) and during the next four years, TAAF produced some of the nation’s finest and celebrated servicemen, the Tuskegee Airmen. As the white commander of a predominantly African American military installation, Lt. Col. Parrish faced both local white citizens who were not supportive of the facility or its mission, and some white senior military and political leaders who believed that African Americans were intellectually incapable of flying combat aircraft.

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