Out And About: Spotlight: Rosalind Goddard – African American Imagery on US Postage Stamps

from Phyllis Hansen, Director of Programs and Rosalind Goddard

May 6, 2022

Rosalind Goddard


On Wednesday,  April 13,  Ebell member Rosalind Goddard shared her knowledge of the commemorative stamps that have featured, and continue to feature, images of African Americans who forged paths to success against pernicious challenges based solely upon skin color and race.

Among the issuances is the Black Heritage Series, which began in 1978 with Harriet Tubman, the first African American woman to be featured on a postage stamp, and which has issued a stamp in that series each year since then. It is the longest running series in USPS Commemorative stamps.

There have been over 179 stamps commemorating African American history and culture.  Rosalind showed and talked about some of them, including Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Ella Fitzgerald, C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, Gwen Ifell, and Marvin Gaye.  This year’s honoree is Edmonia Lewis, an African American and Native American sculptor. Others have been important literary, music, sports, philanthropic and political figures as well as seminal civil rights events, for example the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.

Accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation, the audience learned:

  • pre-USPS, deliveries were done by enslaved people who, after delivering the mail, may have been put up for sale and not allowed to return home.
  • the definitions of a First Day Cover, a Cachet, and an Opening Day Ceremony Program. These components accompany the majority of the commemoratives that are issued by the USPS.
  • facts about two outstanding award-winning artists and illustrators who designed some of the stamps, Jerry Pinkney (Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sojourner Truth and others;) and Kadir Nelson (Negro Leagues Baseball; Larry Doby and Willie Stargell, baseball sluggers; Marvin Gaye and others.)
  •  the work of the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee which reviews thousands of suggestions and, together with the art directors and designers of the Postal Service,  submits its suggestions to the Postmaster General.

The presentation was followed by a Q&A.

Left to right, top line: Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Billie Holiday. Second line: Ma Rainey, Mildred Bailey, Howlin’ Wolf. Third line: Robert Johnson, Jimmy Rushing, Dinah Washington. Fourth Line: Mahalia Jackson, Roberta Martin, Clara Ward, Sister Rosetta.

Prominent women, including: Bessie Coleman, Marian Anderson, Ida B. Wells, Ella Fitzgerald; Barbara Jordan, Patricia Roberts Harris, Shirley Chisolm, and Rosa Parks


Some useful websites:

National Postal Museum, “Freedom Just Around the Corner, 2/15/2015-2/15/2016”.

United States Postal Service.

ESPER (African American Stamp Society  )