The U.S. Postal Service has used its collection of stamps to visually honor the legacies of pioneering individuals who are embedded in the fabric of American history. Among its 2023 compilation of prints are Black literary trailblazers Ernest J. Gaines and Toni Morrison.
Both writers used their craft to amplify stories that provided a lens into the Black experience in America. Gaines, a Louisiana native, is best known for penning books like the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “A Long Day in November” and “A Lesson Before Dying.” Many of his books centered the narratives of African Americans navigating life in the rural South. His thought-provoking work garnered him the National Medal of Arts in 2013. The “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” was later adapted into a poignant film that starred the late Cicely Tyson.”
Morrison, who hailed from Ohio, used her writing to illustrate that Black culture isn’t monolithic. She crafted multi-dimensional characters in novels like “Sula,” “The Bluest Eye,” and “Song of Solomon” that explored the concepts of race, identity, womanhood, and sisterhood along their journeys. Her book “Beloved” won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and she was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
William Gicker, who serves as USPS Stamp Services Director, says the 2023 stamps are “miniature works of art” that “highlight our unique American culture and offer a broad selection for those looking to collect stamps or send their mail around the nation or the world.” Gaines’ stamp—which was designed by Mike Ryan—depicts an oil painting of his likeness created by artist Robert Peterson. It’s the 46th stamp in the Black Heritage collection. Morrison’s stamp features a vibrant photograph of the late novelist that was taken by Deborah Feingold. Greg Breeding and Ethel Kessler served as art directors for the stamps.
Other influential individuals highlighted in the series include the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Native American civil rights leader Chief Standing Bear. The USPS says more stamps that are part of the 2023 program will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
In January, the U.S. Postal Service released a stamp of the first Black sculptor Edmonia Lewis.
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