Advances In Science, Invention, Diplomacy & Journalism - The Black Experience on Stamps 

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Since the founding of the United States, African Americans have played a pivotal role in American history and heritage. This series of exhibits showcases the black experience in the United States through the lens of American postage stamps.

Advances In Science

America has always been at the forefront of scientific and medical research. Millions of Americans every day are affected either directly or indirectly by contributions made by African-American scientists and doctors.

George Washington Carver improved the quality of life for millions of people through his scientific contributions in agriculture. The many products he developed from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans helped relieve southern agriculture of one-crop dependency, increased agricultural productivity, aided diet and nutrition, and raised poor farmers’ hopes.

"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom."- George Washington Carver

Advances In Science

A second George Washington Carver stamp was issued February 3, 1998. It is one of the stamps featured on the Celebrate The Century: 1910s Souvenir Sheet.

Advances In Science

Ernest E. Just is known primarily for his research in marine biology. He pioneered experiments in the fertilization of marine invertebrates and studied the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms. In 1915 he was the first recipient of the Spingarn Medal awarded by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Advances In Science

Any person who has received a lifesaving blood transfusion owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Charles Drew, an eminent surgeon, teacher, and scientist. In 1940, Dr. Drew devised the system to process and store large amounts of plasma, and that system is still used today. For his work in the blood plasma projects, Dr. Drew received the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1944.

Advances In Science

Percy Lavon Julian won fame as a research chemist. He synthesized cortisone for arthritis, a drug for glaucoma, and progesterone. For his outstanding contribution to chemistry and medical science, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990.

Business Leaders & Inventors

Jan Matzeliger revolutionized the shoe making industry when he patented the "shoe lasting" machine in 1883. His invention was able to duplicate and automate the previously slow, intricate process of "lasting" shoes; joining the upper parts of a shoe to the sole. In the same time that an expert shoe laster could produce 50 pairs of shoes, Matzeliger's machine was able to produce up to 700 pairs.

Business Leaders & Inventors

Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker became a beauty products pioneer and one of the nation's first female millionaires. In the early 1900s, using her husband's name (Charles Joseph Walker), she developed a very successful business manufacturing hair goods and preparations, and her company eventually became one of the country's largest businesses owned by an African-American. Walker also became one of the era's leading African-American philanthropists and political activists, strongly supporting education, charitable institutions, political rights, and economic opportunities for African-Americans and women.

Prominent Diplomats

Born at the turn of the century, Clifton R. Wharton, Sr. served the United States as a Foreign Service Officer through the 20th century's most tumultuous period. Wharton passed the Foreign Service exam in 1925, which made him the first African-American Foreign Service Officer. Under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, Wharton became the first African-American to lead a delegation to a European country and the first African-American to come from within the Foreign Service ranks to become an ambassador.

Prominent Diplomats

Patricia Harris (1924-1985) was raised to believe that education was the means for success. She graduated first in her class in the Howard University law school and began a long, distinguished career as a lawyer, educator and public administrator. At Howard, she served as dean and professor as well as President Kennedy’s appointed chairperson of the National Women’s Committee. Harris’ work continued as she became the first female African American U.S. ambassador and the first African American woman appointed to a presidential cabinet.

Prominent Diplomats

While working as a diplomat for the newly created United Nations, Ralph Bunche conducted the seemingly impossible negotiations resulting in the 1949 armistice between the year-old nation of Israel and its Arab neighbors. His efforts demonstrated that nations can resolve issues peaceably and also that the United Nations can serve as an effective facilitator among nations. For this exemplary accomplishment, Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950.

Prominent Journalists

An internationally recognized writer and commentator, Ethel L. Payne was a syndicated columnist and long-time reporter for the Chicago Defender, one of the leading African-American newspapers in the United States. She was the first African-American woman to receive accreditation as a White House correspondent. In her honor, the prestigious annual Ethel L. Payne International Award for Excellence in Journalism was established in 1998.

Prominent Journalists

Ida B. Wells devoted her life to educating people about the horrors of discrimination against African-Americans and women. Her first job was as a teacher, but she became a journalist when she started to write about her experiences of suing a railroad company for discrimination. Much of her journalism career centered on the anti-lynching crusade and voting rights for women. She was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and she founded the first suffrage club for African-American women.

"The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press."-Ida B. Wells

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum
Credits: Story

The National Postal Museum extends thanks to the United States Postal Service and to its employees who assisted in the creation of this exhibit: Angelo Wider, Roy Betts, Michael Tidwell, Sheryl Turner, Robert Faruq, Meg Ausman, and Pamela Hyman.

Many of the subjects appearing in this exhibit and on U.S. stamps in general are suggested by the public. Each year, the Postal Service receives from the American public thousands of letters proposing stamp subjects. Every stamp suggestion meeting criteria is considered, regardless of who makes it or how it is presented.

To learn more about the stamp selection process, visit the following link to the Postal Service's web site:

https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/csac/welcome.htm

Visit the National Postal Museum's Website

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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