The First African American on a Stamp - 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.

Booker T. Washington stamp

On April 7, 1940 the United States released the 10-cent Booker T. Washington stamp as part of the 1940 Famous Americans Issue. This was the first time that an African American was commemorated on a United States postage stamp. The Famous Americans Issue included thirty-five different Americans who made important contributions to the fields of poetry, literature, education, science, music, art and mechanical innovation.

In 1881, Booker T. Washington became the first principal at Alabama’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), and over the next several decades, he emerged as the foremost educator and spokesman for African Americans.

Washington also helped found the National Negro Business League in 1900. In 1913 he gave the 14th annual Business League address here at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.

"This the fourteenth meeting of the National Negro Business League marks also the fiftieth anniversary of our freedom as a race. It is, then, both timely and fitting that this great gathering of the representatives of the backbone and progress of our race should be held in Philadelphia. It is most appropriate that this meeting should take place after fifty years of freedom in the city where 137 years ago that immortal document, the Declaration of Independence, was issued.
Whether the American Negro was meant at the time to be included within the scope and meaning of the words of the Declaration of Independence has been a debatable question. However that may be decided, we mean as a race through this and similar organizations to make ourselves such a useful and potent part of American citizenship so that in all the future no one will dare question our right to be included in any declaration that relates to any portion of the body politic."

He also served as an advisor to presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

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:

Visit the National Postal Museum's Website

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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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