This is a continuation of articles featuring the U.S.A. stamp series entitled “Black Heritage”. I thoroughly recommend further research of the lives of the persons featured in this series of articles.
Salem Poor was born into slavery in Andover, Massachusetts on a farm owned by John and Rebecca Poor. He spent his early years in servitude to the family, and in 1769, at the age of 22, he purchased his freedom for 27 pounds, the equivalent of the one year’s salary at that time.
Salem Poor earned his place in history during the Battle of Bunker Hill. For his deeds in that battle, he received a commendation extolling him as a “brave and gallant soldier.”
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place at the onset of the Revolutionary War against England and is considered a decisive turning point for the American colonies.
Whitney M. Young Jr. was born in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky, on July 31, 1921. He was a middle child with two sisters. His mother was a teacher and his father the principal of the Lincoln Institute, an African American preparatory school. He attended Kentucky State Industrial College before working as a teacher himself and then serving in World War II overseas, where he also acted as a liaison between black and white servicemen.
After the war Young earned his social work master’s from the University of Minnesota. He went on to work for a few years with the Urban League of St. Paul, with the organisation helping to place African Americans in previously whites-only jobs. He also became actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Young was appointed executive director of the National Urban League in 1961. With a flair for enlisting the support of prominent white businessmen, he was instrumental in saving the league from financial ruin as well as handling major overhauls of the organisation’s structure, grandly increasing its budget and staff size.
The League, at Young’s behest and despite reservations from some benefactors, became a co-sponsor of the historic 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. The League was also a major factor in the process of racially integrating staff for a variety of big-company jobs nationally. He became a close adviser to the then President, Lyndon B. Johnson. Young became known for his Domestic Marshall Plan, which was thought to have helped shape the president’s policies, and also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1968.
African American surgeon Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) has been called “the father of the blood bank,” for his outstanding role in conceiving, organising, and directing America’s first large-scale blood banking programme during the early years of World War II. While best known for the blood bank work, Drew devoted much of his career to raising the standards of African American medical education at Howard University, Washington D.C., where he trained a generation of outstanding surgeons, and worked to break through the barriers that segregation imposed on black physicians. Tragically, Drew died on April 1, 1950, in Burlington, North Carolina, from injuries sustained in a car accident while en route to a conference.