Though Chuck D. of Public Enemy once rhymed “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps,” that seems to be changing. In recent years the Postal Service has honored several Black heroes including Ray Charles and Tuskegee Airman Chief Anderson. This year, the late Maya Angelou was honored with a stamp.
Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman says the response thus far has been amazing. The First-Day-of-Issue stamp dedication ceremony was April 7th in Washington, DC.
“We want as many people as possible to purchase these stamps,” says Stroman. “So far it it is a phenomenal response. People from all over the world are requesting these stamps,” he says. “It’s one of the great responses we have seen since we have gone through our stamp program.”
To choose who gets their own stamp is a process done by a committee in the National Postal Service.
“It’s a group of experts who get together to pick the most influential people around the United States. We have a particular person, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who plays real role in deciding who goes on, especially as it relates to the African-American community. The Postal Service is some ways is the backbone of the African-American community, and we want to give back. And part of that giving back is focusing on great African-Americans and certainly Maya Angelou fits into that category as few have ever done.”
Stroman says that Angelou was chosen more quickly than anyone in Postal Service history. But there has been some controversy about the quote on the stamp, which although it reflects Angelou’s sensibilities, it’s not actually her quote.
“We did an inadequate reference check on that quote,” Stroman admits. “We have an extensive process to check and recheck and it’s obviously important to us because we have intellectual property issues on every stamp we issue. In retrospect, we should have used a quote that came from one of her writings. But this was a quote that Angelou used often and that she personally felt reflected her core values and the force of her first autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. This was a quote the family wanted us to use and one that President Obama used in awarding her the Presidential Honor Of Freedom. We certainly hope that people will embrace the stamp and quote and move forward and purchase these stamps.”
Click the link above to hear the entire interview.