Arago: 1990 Black Heritage Series: Ida B. Wells Issue

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1990 Black Heritage Series: Ida B. Wells Issue

On February 1, 1990, the U.S. Postal Service issued the 25-cent Ida B. Wells commemorative stamp at the Museum of Science and Technology in Chicago, Illinois, which became the thirteenth entry in the popular Black Heritage Series of Stamps.

The stamp design, by Thomas Blackshear of Novato, California, features a stunning portrait of Wells based on several photographs of her taken during the mid-1890s. A line of pickets forms a dramatic backdrop, symbolizing her fierce denunciation of racial hatred and her anti-lynching crusade. Blackshear also designed philatelic tributes to Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, James Weldon Johnson, and A. Philip Randolph, the three most recent honorees in the Black Heritage Series of stamps.

Born a slave in 1862, Ida B. Wells devoted her entire life to educating people about the horrors of discrimination and lynching. As editor and co-owner of The Memphis Free Speech, she channeled the power of the written word to awaken the nation's consciousness about lynching. In 1895, she published The Red Record, the first statistical study of lynching and mob violence in America. Three years later, she led a delegation to Washington, D.C. to protest the lynching of a black postmaster.

In 1908, Ida B. Wells helped organize and became the first president of the Negro Fellowship League. The following year, she helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In Crusade for Justice, her autobiography published posthumously in 1970, she explained that she wrote to record "the gallant fight and marvelous bravery of the black men of the South, fighting and dying to exercise and maintain their newborn rights as freemen and citizens."

This stamp is part of the Black Heritage Stamp Series. Initiated in 1978, the USPS continues to issue a stamp featuring a notable Black American every February in conjunction with Black History Month and at other times during the year.


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