Equality has a Stamp


By Calvin Mitchell, NPM Research Associate & Domonique Williams, NPM Management Support Specialist

On Friday, August 23, 2013 at 10:30 A.M. the US Postal Service conducted a first day ceremony at the spacious Newseum for release of the 1963 March on Washington limited edition forever stamp. The Newseum was a fitting location for the event because the success and tragedies of the Civil Rights era were documented by the news media during the 1960’s. The stamp represents the final issue in a trilogy of stamps released in 2013 to commemorate civil rights events or leaders. The first Forever stamp marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, while the second stamp honored Rosa Parks on the 100th anniversary of her birth in February. An inspiring word appears in large type in the selvage of each stamp pane, including, “Freedom” on the Emancipation stamp sheet, “Courage” on the Parks’ stamp sheet, and “Equality” on the March on Washington stamp sheet. “Together, the 3 stamps tell a story of a journey for justice that continues to this very day.” said Ron Stroman, USPS Deputy Postmaster General.

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The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the 1963 March on Washington stamp at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 23, 2013. The limited-edition stamp honors the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and is available for sale at post offices nationwide. Pictured, from left to right: Thurgood Marshall, Jr., John Lewis, Alexander Williams, Gabrielle Union, Ronald A. Stroman, Wade Henderson, Joe Coleman and Scott Lewis. (U.S. Postal Service, Riccardo Savi)
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Under the art direction of Antonio Alcala, stamp artist Gregory Manches depicts marchers against the background of the Washington Monument. Placards calling for equal rights and jobs for all--two principles—are prominently displayed. Using broad strokes and painting with oils on gessoed illustration board, Manches conveys an impressionistic effect of the historic occasion. Initial printing for the stamp is 59 million.

Scott Williams, expressed his pleasure that the Newsuem was honored to host the event and invited attendees to visit the Newseum’s “Civil Rights at 50” exhibit, a three year changing exhibit that chronicles milestones in the civil rights movement from 1963, 1964 and 1965.

During the past month, the USPS encouraged people to add their profile photo from their twitter or Facebook account to the virtual March on Washington Stamp Mosaic. As individual photos became pixels in the mosaic, the stamp design was gradually released. During the ceremony Gabrielle Union added her photo to the mosaic, resulting in the stamp simultaneously revealed digitally on Facebook and at the First Day of Issue ceremony.

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First day program for the March on Washington stamp with five signatures.
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Pin distributed by the USPS during the ceremony

Although Union was not born at the time of the March, she said she felt compelled to join the ceremony because her parents had raised her to never be silent in the face of injustice. In 1963, Union explained, her father was in Italy serving in the military and her grandmother prohibited her mother from taking part in protests, fearing she would lose her job. “Both of my parents were silenced at a time when they wanted to be demonstrative in their feelings and in their opinions; my father by the military brass and my mother by a scarier entity---my grandmother.”

During his dedication speech Stroman said “It’s an honor to be here in remembrance of the 1963 March on Washington and dedicate a stamp that commemorates what Dr. King describes as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation: the March on Washington, which set the stage for civil rights legislation that changed the arc of history forever.” Indeed, the March on Washington is a reminder of those who marched and put their lives on the line for the cause of social justice. “That’s one of the enduring principles reflected on the stamp we dedicate today.”

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Commemorative panel prepared for the March on Washington stamp. Panel includes a picture showing the huge crowd that attended the March.

John Lewis, who at 73 represents the last living speaker from the original March, gave a very passionate speech about the events that surrounded the March and speaking of the ceremony he said “This is an extraordinary day that validates the transformative power of the Civil Rights Movement. The March on Washington was the crown jewel of the Civil Rights movement. It also spoke to the individuals who gave their lives to the cause of freedom”. While pointing to the stamp, Lewis remarks “This stamp, this beautiful stamp is my hope. It inspires us all to renew our effort to do what we can to create a more perfect union. If someone had told me fifty years ago that we would someday issue a stamp honoring the March, I would not have believed them. This stamp will remind us of the distance we’ve come, the distance we’ve travelled, and the distance we must still go before we lay down the burden of race, class and color and create one America, where no one is left out, or left behind.”

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Artcraft cover used to obtain signatures of participants from the ceremony. This cover was autraphed by Wade Henderson and Ron Stroman. The cover include a postmarked stamp commemorating A. Phillip Randolph, a Civil Rights and union Leader, who originated the idea to have the March.The Randolph stamp along with March on Washington stamp were tied with a circular postmark obtained at the ceremony.
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Artcraft cover used to obtain signatures of participants from the ceremony. This cover was autographed by John Lewis and Alexander Williams.

Domonique Williams

About the Author
Domonique Williams: "I changed my major my sophomore year of college from economics to history after I realized how much more excited I was to go to my art history class than my macroeconomics class. I received my Bachelor's Degree from Tuskegee University and am currently pursuing my Master's degree in Nonprofit Management at Eastern University. I am the Administrative Assistant to the Director of the museum. This is my first experience working with a museum, so naturally, I threw a party when I found out I would finally be a Smithsonian Institution employee. :)"

Calvin Mitchell

About the Author
Calvin Mitchell is an Assistant Curator of Philately. His interests are African American History and Philately, Military Postal History, movies and football. While working at the National Postal Museum, he likes the opportunity to access the museum's vast collection to perform historical research and write about interesting philatelic topics.