Civil Rights Pioneers Honored on Stamps

The sacrifices of 12 civil rights pioneers were immortalized on postage today during the NAACP’s annual meeting in New York City. The Civil Rights Pioneers stamp sheet, bearing six 42-cent First-Class commemorative stamps, are available nationwide today. They were dedicated by U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors member Thurgood Marshall Jr. The stamps honor the achievements of Ella Baker, Daisy Gatson Bates, J.R. Clifford, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Charles Hamilton Houston, Ruby Hurley, Mary White Ovington, Joel Elias Spingarn, Mary Church Terrell, Oswald Garrison Villard and Walter White.

“For more than 100 years, the NAACP has championed the cause of racial equality,” explained Marshall, “breaking down the strongholds of political, economic and social injustice. The NAACP and these 12 civil rights pioneers are inextricably linked. The hope of our nation is built on the legacies of these very special people and thousands of others whom we’ll never even know. That’s the spirit of America — bred in the sacrifices of a few for the benefit of many.”

Marshall was joined in dedicating the stamps by Medgar Evers’ widow and NAACP Chairman Emerita, Myrlie Evers-Williams, NAACP Board of Directors Chairman Julian Bond and Professor, Alphonse Fletcher University and Director, Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is also a member of the Postmaster General’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee.

“I am very pleased that the United States Postal Service has issued this stamp commemorating civil rights pioneers at this moment in time — just as the NAACP celebrates its historic 100th anniversary,” said Myrlie Evers-Williams. “Those of us who have made a lifetime commitment to the NAACP realize the challenges and sacrifices faced by these pioneers and their tremendous dedication to the cause of justice. As we move forward to celebrate the future, we must not let younger generations forget these champions who paved the way for the advancements we enjoy today. I am deeply honored that Medgar Evers has been chosen to be immortalized with this select group of heroic legends.”

Art director Ethel Kessler and stamp designer Greg Berger, both of Bethesda, MD, chose to approach this project through photographic montage. Pairing two pioneers in each stamp was a way of intensifying the montage effect. The selvage image, or area outside of the stamps, is an illustration by Greg Berger showing participants in a march.

Top row of stamps:

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

Throughout her long life as a writer, activist, and lecturer, she was a powerful advocate for racial justice and women’s rights in America and abroad. The portrait of Mary Church Terrell, from the collection of the Library of Congress, was made between 1880 and 1900.

Mary White Ovington (1865-1951)

This journalist and social worker believed passionately in racial equality and was a founder of the NAACP. The photograph of Mary White Ovington was taken between 1930 and 1940. It is part of the NAACP archival collection at the Library of Congress.

J.R. Clifford (1848-1933)

Clifford was the first black attorney licensed in West Virginia. In two landmark cases before his state’s Supreme Court, he attacked racial discrimination in education. The image of J.R. Clifford is a detail from an undated photograph from the University of Massachusetts Library Special Collections.

Joel Elias Spingarn (1875-1939)

Because coverage of blacks in the media tended to be negative, he endowed the prestigious Spingarn Medal, awarded annually since 1915, to highlight black achievement. The portrait of Joel Elias Spingarn is dated in the 1920s and comes from the records of NAACP at the Library of Congress.

Oswald Garrison Villard (1872-1949)

Villard was one of the founders of the NAACP and wrote “The Call” leading to its formation. His undated portrait comes from the records of the NAACP at the Library of Congress.

Daisy Gatson Bates (1914-1999)

Bates mentored nine black students who enrolled at all-white Central High School in Little Rock, AR, in 1957. The students used her home as an organizational hub. The 1957 photograph of Bates is from the New York World-Telegram & Sun Newspaper photographic collection at the Library of Congress.

Bottom row of stamps:

Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950)

This lawyer and educator was a main architect of the civil rights movement. He believed in using laws to better the lives of underprivileged citizens. Houston’s portrait is a Nov. 22, 1939, photograph from the Washington Press obtained from the Library of Congress.

Walter White (1893-1955)

Blue eyes and a fair complexion enabled this leader of the NAACP to make daring undercover investigations. The portrait of Walter White, dated around 1950, is from the records of the NAACP at the Library of Congress.

Medgar Evers (1925-1963)

Evers served with distinction as an official of the NAACP in Mississippi until his assassination in 1963. The photograph of Evers is from the Library of Congress.

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)

Hamer was a Mississippi sharecropper who fought for black voting rights and spoke for many when she said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Her portrait is dated Aug. 24, 1964.

Ella Baker (1903-1986)

Baker’s lifetime of activism made her a skillful organizer. She encouraged women and young people to assume positions of leadership in the civil rights movement. The portrait of Ella Baker is dated between 1943 and 1946 and is from NAACP records at the Library of Congress.

Ruby Hurley (1909-1980)

As a courageous and capable official with the NAACP, she did difficult, dangerous work in the South. Hurley’s image is from a 1963 newspaper photo.

To see the stamps, visit this link:

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