The 2006 stamp in the United States Black Heritage series featured Hattie McDaniel (1893-1952). She was an actress, often playing housemaids and other stereotypical roles. She appeared in more than ninety films. For her role of the house servant Mammy in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award.
The outstanding musical career of vocalist Ella Fitzgerald was the subject of the 2007 issue. During more than half a century of performing and recording, Ella Fitzgerald became known as “The First Lady of Song.” She won thirteen Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors, and was inducted into the Lincoln Center Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. The Society of Singers created an award for lifetime achievement, making her the first recipient of the “Ella” award.
The first African-American writer to receive major acclaim was Charles W. Chesnutt, commemorated on the 2008 stamp. In 1887 his short story “The Goophered Grapevine” (‘goophered’ in American English means cursed or bewitched) appeared in the 1857-founded magazine The Atlantic Monthly. Often speaking out against racial discrimination, his writings were well known for their probing into the fight for civil rights, often revealing the contradictions at the heart of attitudes toward race. Chesnutt received the NAACP’s Spingarn Award for his “pioneer work as a literary artist depicting the life and struggles of Americans of Negro descent.” The Spingarn Medal is awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for outstanding achievement by an African American.
A Voice from the South (1892) is the only book published by one of the most prominent African American women scholars and educators of her era. Born a slave in 1858, Anna Julia Haywood Cooper lived to be 105 and was the subject of the 2009 Black Heritage stamp. She became the fourth African American woman to earn a doctoral degree, earning a PhD in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. She rose to prominence as a member of the Black community in Washington, D.C., where she served as principal at M Street High School, during which time she wrote A Voice from the South. In it, she engages a variety of issues ranging from women’s rights to racial progress, from segregation to literary criticism. The first half of her book concentrates largely on the education of African American women. She founded several organisations to promote black civil rights causes, including the Colored Women’s League.
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