|Further reading elsewhere:|
On this day in 1940 the United States Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Booker T. Washington, the first Black person to be so honoured on a U.S. stamp.
Booker Taliaferro Washington was born into slavery in April 5, 1856, and became one of the most respected men in the entire world. During the earliest years of the Jim Crow Era, when just looking at someone the wrong way was enough to get a Black man lynched, Washington was one of the leading voices against the treatment of Black folk in the country.
History channel has more highlights:
Born a slave on a Virginia farm, Washington (1856-1915) rose to become one of the most influential African-American intellectuals of the late 19th century. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Institute, a black school in Alabama devoted to training teachers. Washington was also behind the formation of the National Negro Business League 20 years later, and he served as an adviser to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Although Washington clashed with other black leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois and drew ire for his seeming acceptance of segregation, he is recognized for his educational advancements and attempts to promote economic self-reliance among African Americans.
The Washington stamp, coming 2 days after his birthday and 35 years after his death, was issued as part of the Famous American Series of stamps that included 34 other people in various categories. (See full list below the picture to the right.) As we learn from Wikipedia:
In 1940, the U.S. Post Office issued a set of 35 stamps, issued over the
course of approximately ten months, commemorating America’s famous
Authors, Poets, Educators, Scientists, Composers, Artists and Inventors.
The Educators included Booker T. Washington, who now became the first
African-American to be honored on a U.S. stamp. This series of Postage
issues was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
These stamps were larger in size than normal definitive issues, with
only 280 stamp images contained on the printing plate (400 images was
standard for the Presidential series). Notable also is the red-violet
color chosen for the 3¢ stamps, a brighter hue than the traditional
This was not Washington’s only honour. According to the WikiWackyWoo:
For his contributions to American society, Washington was granted an honorary master’s degree from Harvard University in 1896 and an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth College in 1901.
At the end of the 2008 presidential election, the defeated Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, referred to Booker Washington’s visit to Theodore Roosevelt’s White House, a century before, as the seed that blossomed into Barack Obama as the first African American to be elected President of the United States.
In 1934 Robert Russa Moton,
Washington’s successor as president of Tuskegee University, arranged an
air tour for two African-American aviators. Afterward he had the plane
named the Booker T. Washington.
On April 7, 1940, Washington became the first African American to be
depicted on a United States postage stamp. Several years later, he was
honored on the first coin to feature an African American, the Booker T. Washington Memorial Half Dollar, which was minted by the United States from 1946 to 1951. He was also depicted on a U.S. Half Dollar from 1951–1954.
In 1984 Hampton University dedicated a Booker T. Washington Memorial on campus near the historic Emancipation Oak,
establishing, in the words of the University, “a relationship between
one of America’s great educators and social activists, and the symbol of
Black achievement in education.”
At the center of the campus at Tuskegee University, the Booker T. Washington Monument, called Lifting the Veil, was dedicated in 1922. The inscription at its base reads:
He lifted the veil of ignorance from his people and pointed the way to progress through education and industry.
In 2000, West Virginia State University
(WVSU; then West Va. State College), in cooperation with other
organizations including the Booker T. Washington Association,
established the Booker T. Washington Institute, to honor Washington’s boyhood home, the old town of Malden, and the ideals Booker Washington stood for.
On October 19, 2009, WVSU dedicated a monument to the memory of noted African American educator and statesman Booker T. Washington. The event took place at West Virginia State University’s Booker T. Washington Park in Malden, West Virginia.
The monument also honors the families of African ancestry who lived in
Old Malden in the early 20th century and who knew and encouraged Booker
T. Washington. Special guest speakers at the event included West
Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III, Malden attorney Larry L. Rowe, and the president of WVSU. Musical selections were provided by the WVSU “Marching Swarm.”