We continue to build our collection of Black Heritage and Forever Stamps depicting Blacks who have made significant contributions to Amercian History. We recently added the new Emancipation Proclamation stamp that was introduced on January 1, 2013 and the Rosa Parks stamp that was introduced on February 4, 2013. We are now eagerly awaiting the release of two more Black Heritage stamps that will be introduced later this year honoring Althea Gibson and Ray Charles.
Althea Gibson – 1927–2003
The 36th stamp in the Black Heritage series honors Althea Gibson, a pioneering tennis player who became the first Black Wimbledon champion. The tall, lean Gibson was fast, had a long reach, and relied on a booming serve and precise volleys. She blazed a trail for a future generation of Black players, such as Arthur Ashe and sisters Venus and Serena Williams.
The oil-on-wood painting featured on the stamp is based on a photograph—taken at Wimbledon—of Gibson bending down to hit a low volley. The first Black tennis player to win one of the four major singles tournaments, Gibson helped integrate her sport at the height of the civil rights movement. She twice won Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships (now known as the U.S. Open) and became the top-ranked player in the world.
Designed by Derry Noyes, the stamp features the artwork of Kadir Nelson.
Ray Charles – 1930–2004
The U.S. Postal Service proudly honors inspiring musician Ray Charles with a stamp, one of several that inaugurates the Music Icons series. This extraordinary composer, singer, and pianist, blind since childhood, went beyond category, blending blues, gospel, country, jazz, and soul music in a unique and highly influential pop music style. His many hits included “I’ve Got a Woman,” “Georgia on My Mind,” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”
The stamp art features an image of Charles, taken later in his career, by photographer Yves Carrère. The stamp sheet was designed to evoke the appearance of a 45 rpm single peeking out of a record sleeve above the stamps themselves. On the reverse side, the sheet includes a larger version of the photograph featured in the stamp art as well as the logo for the Music Icons series.
Looking back over the course of his long career, there seemed to be little Charles couldn’t do. His work spanned almost the entire breadth of American music and brought him 17 Grammy Awards, plus an award for lifetime achievement in 1987. His many other prizes include the National Medal of Arts, awarded in 1993, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986. That same year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He performed at the White House many times for several different presidents.
Art director Ethel Kessler worked on the stamp sheet with designer Neal Ashby.