Continuing with our series of articles regarding the U.S. Post “Black Heritage” series of stamps we begin with James W. Johnson (1871-1938) who was featured on the 1988 Black Heritage stamp. As a lawyer, he became the first black man to be admitted to the Florida Bar. As an educator, he established a high school for African-Americans in his hometown, Jacksonville, Florida. Johnson also served as the executive secretary of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and was an involved civil rights activist. However, he may be best known for his novel, “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”, which outlined the grievances that the black society had against the racial policies of the white society. The stamp features the lyrics of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” a song honouring Booker T. Washington that Johnson wrote with his brother. The song is also known as the “Black National Anthem.”
A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was the subject of the 1989 stamp. For more than 60 years Asa Philip Randolph lectured on the importance of equal rights and equal opportunity. He was a founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which in 1937 became the first official African-American labour union. He was also involved with the establishment of the Fair Employment Practice Committee and the League for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience and the Negro-American Labor Council. Because of his efforts President Harry Truman issued an executive order which allowed black recruits to be admitted into the Army and Navy Academies.
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) seen above, was an African-American journalist, abolitionist and feminist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. As a strong believer of civil and women’s rights, Wells spent much of her life publicising the horrors of black lynching. She was one of the founders of the NAACP and served as the secretary of the National Afro-American Council. Wells was the author of “Lynching and the Excuse for It” and her autobiography, “Crusade for Justice”. Her efforts set the stage for the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.
Jan E. Matzeliger (1852-1889) was featured on the 1991 stamp in the series. When Jan Ernst Matzeliger started working in a shoe factory, hundreds of inventors and thousands of dollars had already been spent trying to make a device that would stitch the leather top to the sole of a shoe (a process called “lasting”). Matzeliger spent all his spare time attempting to invent such a machine. His first successful lasting machine was made with cigar boxes, wood, and wire. After Jan perfected his Lasting Machine he was able to complete up to 600 pairs of shoes each day, compared to the traditional manual rate of only fifty per day. Matzeliger’s invention quickly made his home town of Lynn, Massachusetts, the “shoe capital of the world.”
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was a scholar, author, and civil rights leader. In 1895 Du Bois became the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. His writings include “The Philadelphia Negro”, the first sociological text about a black community; “The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States 1638–1870”, which became the first volume in the “Harvard Historical Studies”; and a Marxist interpretation of the post-Civil war era entitled “Black Reconstruction”. Du Bois co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975) was a pioneering chemist who attended the University of Vienna in Austria where he researched methods for synthesising hormones and vitamins. Upon returning to the United States, he continued his research and successfully synthesised a chemical used to treat glaucoma. Julian is also noted for the creation of a synthetic version of cortisone, making it much cheaper to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although his race presented challenges at every turn, he is regarded as one of the most influential chemists in American history.