Part 11 in this series of Black Heritage stamp articles begins in the year 2002 with poet, journalist and author Langston Hughes (1902-1967). He was just eighteen years old when he composed his first – and best known – poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” Hughes was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement. During his lifetime he wrote poetry, news articles, books, short stories and plays – highlighting poverty, prejudice, radical politics, violence and social causes. He wrote the Broadway shows “Mulatto” and “Street Scene”, and two successful gospel shows, “Black Nativity” and “Jericho-Jim Crow”.
Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was featured on the 2003 Black Heritage stamp. He was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. He became known for his views concerning the need for fair and impartial treatment of the nation’s minorities. As the chief of the NAACP’s (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) legal staff, he won the civil rights case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka before the United States Supreme Court. This was a landmark case in which racial segregation in the public schools was declared unconstitutional. Marshall later served on the U.S. Court of Appeals, was the U.S. Solicitor General and a liberal member of the Supreme Court.
The acclaimed 20th-Century singer and actor, Paul Robeson (1898-1976) became world famous with his version of the song Ol’ Man River after he played the part of Joe in the musical Show Boat and for his title role in Shakespeare’s Othello. He first played the part in England in 1930, and later took the production successfully to Broadway. But his final stage appearance, as Othello for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford in April 1959, was the most celebrated. He also appeared in a number of films, including Sanders of the River, Show Boat, and Song of Freedom. Robeson was an outspoken activist for racial justice and social progress, and even travelled to the Soviet Union with the aim of encouraging international peace.
The opera singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was featured on the 2005 Black Heritage stamp. Her love of music from an early age was obvious as she joined a church choir when she was six years old. She was so talented that members of her church congregation raised funds for her to attend a music school for a year. Following years of not being able to sing in “White Artists Only” venues, in 1955 she became the first black singer to appear as a member of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Company. Other notable achievements by Marian Anderson saw her become a goodwill ambassador to Asia and a delegate to the United Nations. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, and the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal.