“Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamp!” declared Chuck D of famed ’90s Black conscious rap group Public Enemy on the classic song “Fight the Power!” The pointed lyric touched on the power of representation. That need for inclusion might well explain why the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) Black Heritage Collection is said to be its longest-running and most popular series.
The first African American to appear on a stamp was Booker T. Washington, who appeared on a 10 cent stamp in 1940. With the goal of educating and celebrating the contributions of African Americans, the USPS kicked off its Black Heritage collection in 1978 by honoring heroine freedom fighter Harriet Tubman with its first stamp. Since then, the collection has featured everyone from Malcolm X to Dinah Washington. Each addition is unveiled annually to coincide with Black History Month.
This year, the USPS announced that pioneering journalist Gwen Ifill will be honored with the 43rd stamp in the series. The stamp artwork is taken from a 2008 photo of Ifill by photographer Robert Severi, with Art Director Derry Noyes providing the design. The stamp will be issued in panes of 20 and has been available for purchase since Jan. 30, 2020.
Ifill was a highly esteemed journalist in her field. After graduating from college in 1977, she worked at The Boston Herald American, The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post and The New York Times. In 1994, she took a broadcast job at NBC, where she covered politics in the DC bureau. Five years later, she joined PBS; she became the senior political correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” — the first woman and first African American to moderate a major television news-analysis show.
In 2013, she became co-anchor of the “PBS NewsHour,”part of the first all-female team to anchor a national nightly news program. Her storied career also includes moderating the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates, and the 2016 Democratic primary debate.
Ifill died on November 14, 2016 from endometrial cancer. She was 61.
Other stamps of note unveiled in the USPS 2020 stamp program include a Voices of the Harlem Renaissance series featuring Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Nella Larsen, Alain Locke and Anne Spencer. The series celebrates the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which firmly established African Americans as a vital force in literature and the arts.
The Hip Hop stamp series features photographs taken by Cade Martin that depict four elements of hip hop: MCing (rapping), b-boying (breakdancing), DJing and graffiti art. The bold, digitally tinted images are intended to appear in motion.
Lastly, the 19th Amendment: Women Vote stamp commemorates the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. Inspired by historic photographs, the stamp features a stylized illustration of suffragists marching in a parade or other public demonstration.
Customers may purchase stamps through the Postal Store at usps.com/shop, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), by mail through USA Philatelic, or at a local post office.
—Information provided, in part, by USPS.