Nearly 100 people turned out to celebrate the 100th birthday of Civil Rights leader Rosa L. Parks with the unveiling of a commemorative stamp of her on March 28 at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill. The Nashville Chapter of the African-American Postal League United for Success, also known as A-Plus, along with State Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D), District 54, hosted the unveiling ceremony. In addition to the Rosa L. Parks stamp, the Emancipation Proclamation Forever stamp was shown.
The stamps are the first two in the annual Black Heritage Stamp series. Later this year, a third stamp will be revealed commemorating the March on Washington. The stamp series is designed to commemorate the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in history.
“I think it’s awesome as far as us unveiling the Emancipation Proclamation stamp on the 150th anniversary. The Emancipation Proclamation stamp was unveiled at the same time that President Obama took the oath for his second term, and it is the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks all in the same year. That is amazing,” said Theresa Fennell, president of A-Plus and a business mail acceptance supervisor for the post office.
Several in the audience were a part of the Civil Rights Movement, while others knew Rosa Parks. They shared their memories of participating in marches, sit-ins and planning meetings with some of the most noted Civil Rights leaders. They then shared what the stamps mean to them. The stamps hit the shelves in January.
“It was an honor for me that people put this event on their schedule since it was held in the middle of the day. It was really special for people to put this on their schedule and then share their thoughts and meetings with Rosa Parks. The history is something that we don’t share. That’s something my daughter who came today can take with her,” said Phyllis Hayes.
The stamps were sold at the unveiling ceremony. A total of 50 sheets of the Rosa Parks stamp were sold, while 23 sheets of the Emancipation Proclamation stamps were sold.
Wanda Simpson, a window clerk at the Metrocenter post office said the stamps from the Black Heritage collection are always in high demand.
“As long as we have them in stock, everyone is happy. We have a lot of people coming in to specifically request the stamps, and not just Black people. If we run out and don’t have them in stock, people get upset that they can’t get them,” said Simpson.
The Black Heritage collection began in 1978 as a way to celebrate Black history. Harriet Tubman was on the first stamp issued in the series. Others such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Jackie Robinson, Madam C. J. Walker, Thurgood Marshall and more have had a stamp made in their honor. John Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Company that publishes Ebony and Jet magazines, was the face of last year’s Forever stamp.
Each stamp typically remains in rotation for one year after being unveiled.
Each year, a Post Office board gets together to decide on who will be commemorated for the coming year. People in the community can nominate who should be on the next series of stamps by sending their nominations to the Post Office review board. The board looks at the community support that person has and their accomplishments to determine who will get a stamp. It’s all a rigorous process that Fennell says is a great honor.
“It’s a way of teaching history without actually teaching history. Someone can ask about who the people are on the stamps. People will ask who she is or you can go online and look up who she is and it will give you information about the stamps. The stamps are Black history lessons,” added Fennell.
“I’m glad the Post Office has these stamps and does this. It’s a source of pride to see their face on the stamps,” said Simpson.