Little Bits of History

Famous Americans Series

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2014
Famous Americans Series, Booker T. Washington's stamp

Famous Americans Series, Booker T. Washington’s stamp

April 7, 1940: A new set of stamps, the Famous Americans Series, is issued by the Post Office Department. There were five famous Americans in seven groups: authors, poets, educators, scientists, composers, artists, and inventors. The 35 stamps were in five different denominations: one, two, three, five, and ten cents. Booker T. Washington was depicted on the ten cent stamp in the education series, the first time in American history an African-American was depicted on a stamp. Today, the USPS and gained a deeper understanding of minority groups and doesn’t hesitate to place famous people on stamps, regardless of race.

Washington was born a slave in Hale’s Ford, Virginia in 1856. He was an educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents. He was the of the last generation of African-American leaders born into slavery and was a vocal advocate for the former slaves and their descendents. He was appalled by the disenfranchisement and Jim Crow laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction South. In 1895, his Atlanta compromise called for the avoidance of confrontation over segregation and instead to pursue long term goals in education and economic advancement. To that end, he became one of the most famous of black educators.

Washington was a graduate of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) and Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University). In 1881 he was named as the first leader of the new Tuskegee Institute of Alabama. He had supporters in many black communities across the country and played a major role in racial politics of the time. He cooperated with rich, white people and became a beneficiary of their philanthropy. His underlying belief in education was a driving force and with funds raised, he was able to finance the opening of many schools in local communities as well as institutions of higher learning. Washington was married three times and had three children. His first two wives died young and his third outlived him. All three women helped him with his endeavors at Tuskegee.

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to petitions from African-Americans and their supporters to recognize the brilliance of Washington. As the series of stamps was being developed, it was only logical to include this great advocate of education. Major Robert Wright, Sr. was one of the greatest lobbyists for this and when he heard that Washington would be among those celebrated, he was happy. However, he was not happy that it would be on the expensive ten cent stamp. He noted that many of the African-Americans who would be buying the highest priced stamp would never have a reason to use the expensive mail feature. Washington was again honored in 1956 when an image of a cabin similar to the one he was born in, emblazoned another stamp, this time with a three cent value.

Character is power.

I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. – all from Booker T. Washington

Also on this day: Light My Fire – In 1827, John Walker develops a new match.
Internet Born – in 1969, RFC-1 was published.
 WHO’s Your Caregiver? – In 1948, the World Health Organization was founded.
Canadian Assassination – In 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was killed.

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2 Responses

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  1. vanbraman said, on April 8, 2014 at 1:10 am

    I looked in my stamp album from when I was a kid and didn’t have any of them from the series. I thought that I had. I may have to acquire them someday 🙂

    I learned so much about History and Geography from collecting stamps when I was a kid.


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