Quite often when browsing stamps I come across items regarding certain people or subjects of which I previously had no knowledge. But that’s part of the fascination of stamp collecting as a hobby – it can be both intriguing and educational at the same time. This is a continuation of articles featuring the U.S.A. stamp series entitled “Black Heritage”.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, commemorated on the stamp above, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. In Congress, it was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House on January 31, 1865. The amendment was ratified by the required number of states on December 6, 1865.
George Washington Carver (date of birth thought to be 1860s, died 1943) was born into slavery but grew up to become one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time, as well as a teacher at the Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. He was an agricultural chemist, agronomist and experimenter whose development of new products derived from peanuts (groundnuts), sweet potatoes and soybeans helped revolutionise the agricultural economy of America’s South.
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.
William Christopher Handy (W.C.), was born in Florence, Alabama on November 16, 1873. He attended public schools in Alabama and after graduating, became a school teacher and then worked in iron mills throughout the south.
In the late 1880s, Handy performed as the cornetist in a musical quartet. The quartet toured and performed at Chicago’s World Fair in 1893. He spent some time in Huntsville, Texas as a bandmaster and music teacher at A&M College and then moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi where he taught music at local schools.
In 1913, Handy started his own publishing company, the first African American to do so. Other than the incomparable “St. Louis Blues”, the W.C. Handy catalogue includes “Memphis Blues”, “Yellow Dog Blues”, “Joe Turner Blues”, “Beale Street Blues”, “Hesitating Blues”, “Ole Miss”, “Aframerica Hymn”, “Harlem Blues”, “Basement Blues”, “Loveless Love (Careless Love)”, “Chantez Les Bas”, “Aunt Hagar’s Blues”, “East St. Louis Blues”, “John Henry”, “Annie Love”, “Hail to the Spirit of Freedom”, “Big Stick Blues March” and “Atlanta Blues”. He never stopped fighting for the dignity of African-Americans, especially African-American musicians, who even within the black community, were often considered second-class citizens.
W.C. Handy died in New York City on March 29, 1958. His legacy continues through the annual W.C. Handy Awards and the W.C. Handy Blues Festival held in his home town of Florence, Alabama.