Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant shit to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother fuck him and John Wayne
Cause I’m Black and I’m proud
I’m ready and hyped plus I’m amped
Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps…"
Since 1940, over 150 accomplished Black Americans have been honored by being featured on a U.S. postage stamp. The U.S. Postal Service has issued Black history related stamps to commemorate Black men and women who have contributed to America’s history and who have made a significant difference in the areas such as civil rights, sports, science and music.
Here are a few of my favorites from The Museum of UnCut Funk Collection
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
In 1940, Booker T. Washington became the first Black American to be honored on a U.S. postage stamp. In 1881, Booker T. Washington became the first principal at Alabama’s Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University), and over the next several decades emerged as the foremost educator and spokesman for Blacks. Washington also helped found the National Negro Business League in 1900 and served as an advisor to presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. This stamp was issued April 7, 1940.
Matthew Henson was Admiral Robert Peary’s most trusted member of the expedition that discovered the North Pole. Born in Charles County, Maryland in 1866, Henson went to sea at age 13 and for several years traveled all around the world. When he first met Peary, Henson was in his early twenties and their shared sense of adventure bound them together for more than 20 years. Henson accompanied Peary on several attempts to reach the North Pole, which they finally reached together on April 6, 1909. This stamp was issued May 28, 1986.
JEAN BAPTISTE POINTE DU SABLE
A pioneer and entrepreneur, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable is acknowledged to be the founder of Chicago for having established the first permanent trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River in 1779. At his settlement, Du Sable exhibited skill and knowledge as a merchant, fur trader, farmer and businessman. This stamp was issued February 20, 1987.
IDA B. WELLS
Ida B.Wells devoted her life to educating people about the horrors of discrimination against Blacks and women. Her first job was as a teacher, but she became a journalist when she started to write about her experiences of suing a railroad company for discrimination. Much of her journalism career centered on the anti lynching crusade and voting rights for women. She was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and she founded the first suffrage club for Black women. This stamp was issued February 1, 1990.
Courageous Black soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments helped patrol the West after the Civil War. Their bravery and toughness won them respect from Native Americans, who honored them with the name “Buffalo Soldiers” after the rugged plains animal they revered. Buffalo Soldiers also served with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in the battle of San Juan in the Spanish-American War.
This stamp was issued April 22,1994.
William M. “Bill” Pickett invented the cowboy sport of steer wrestling, also called bulldogging.” Employing a technique he saw ranch dogs use, Pickett would bite the steer’s lip to make it more docile and easier to control. Starring in this event, he and his horse Spradley became a box-office draw in rodeos at home and abroad. Pickett was voted into the National Cowboy and Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1971. This stamp was issued October 18, 1994.
During his life as a frontiersman, James P. “Jim” Beckwourth was a miner, guide, fur trapper, company agent, army scout, soldier and hunter. On a scouting expedition in the early 1850s, he discovered a pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Sacramento Valley, opening a clear pathway to California. This stamp was issued October 18, 1994.
Bessie Coleman was the first Black to receive a pilot’s license, which she earned in France after being denied entry into flight schools in the United States. She returned to the United States and performed in air shows as a stunt flyer. Her goal was to establish a flight school for Blacks, but she died tragically in a plane crash on April 30, 1926, before she could realize her dream. This stamp was issued April 27, 1995.
John Henry is a Black folk hero who symbolizes strength and determination. The stories about John Henry are not just “tall tales,” they are based on the life of a real person, a former slave working on the railroads after the Civil War. In the stories, John Henry, a strong “steel-driving man,”accepted the challenge of trying to outperform a steam-powered drill. Swinging a heavy hammer in each hand, he beat the machine but died soon after — some say from exhaustion, others say from a broken heart on realizing that machines would replace muscle and spirit. This stamp was issued July 11, 1996.
MADAM C.J. WALKER
Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, Madam C.J.Walker became a beauty products pioneer and one of the nation’s first female millionaires. In the early 1900s, using her husband’s name (Charles Joseph Walker), she developed a very successful business manufacturing hair goods and preparations, and her company eventually became one of the country’s largest Black owned business. Walker also became one of the era’s leading Black philanthropists and political activists, strongly supporting education, charitable institutions, political rights and economic opportunities for Blacks and women. This stamp was issued January 28, 1998.