African Americans in the Postal Service and Philately

Topical Reference Page
refer to caption

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.

October 20, 2010 - July 10, 2011

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.

Learn more

Object Spotlight

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


In the midst of a pandemic, there's no more important time to consider harmonious and principled togetherness in the family, the neighborhood, the nation, and the world.

Learn more

1963 March on Washington 37c cent postage stamp with painting of a crowd holding signs
Delight in the colorful world of the paintings of Alma Thomas with the National Postal Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Educators explore Thomas’s life and work through museum objects, a children’s book, and postage stamps.
A Forever stamp with illustration of Celia Cruz singing
Learn about the inspirational life of Celia Cruz, an Afro-Cuban singer whose talent and charisma helped to popularize salsa music in the United States.
Stamp featuring a break dancer and a boom box
Celebrate the diverse culture of hip hop with the National Postal Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Postage stamp featuring a collage by Romare Bearden
Explore the colorful and creative world of renowned artist and Civil Rights activist Romare Bearden with the National Postal Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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 virtual exhibition showcases the black experience in the United States through the lens of American postage stamps.

Learn more


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.

Learn more

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

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.

First-Day Ceremony: Emancipation Proclamation Commemorative Forever Stamp

On January 1, 2013 at 9:00 A.M. the United States Postal Service (USPS) held the first- day ceremony for the Emancipation Proclamation commemorative forever stamp in the magnificent Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives.

New Curriculum Resource

I am always looking for great curriculum to share with the Postal Museum’s education communities. If you are ever looking for material to support teaching about the impact of African Americans in history, you should always stop by USPS. Every year since 1978, it has issued a stamp honoring the contributions of African Americans with its Black Heritage series.