Smithsonian stamp shows African-American history is American history

A new postage stamp honoring the National Museum of African American History and Culture highlights African-American achievements and promotes the museum on the international stage.

The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the Celebrating African American History and Culture Forever Stamp in October, a few weeks after the newest addition to the Smithsonian Institution celebrated its first anniversary on September 24.

The museum has counted nearly 3 million visitors since it opened, said museum director Lonnie G. Bunch III.

Visitors are spending an average six-and-a-half hours in the building, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive museum devoted to African-American life, art, history and culture. Visitors to other Smithsonian museums typically spend between an hour and two-and-a-half hours, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said.

This is the first time the postal service has honored a Smithsonian museum with its own stamp, said Roy Betts, a postal service spokesman. He said 15 million of the stamps were printed.

U.S. postage stamp showing National Museum of African American History and Culture (USPS)

The stamp is based on a photograph taken of the northwest corner of the museum with its three-tier, bronze-colored facade that conveys faith, resilience and hope and pays homage to enslaved African-American craftsmen from New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina.

“The stamp that we dedicate today captures the majestic beauty of this museum,” said Ronald A. Stroman, deputy postmaster general for the postal service. He said the postal service was crucial to helping create a black middle class because it hired African Americans in the early 20th century when many other businesses wouldn’t.

“Forever” stamps are always valid for first-class postage in the U.S., regardless of any future rate increases.

Some 30 million people each year visit one of 19 Smithsonian Institution museums and art galleries in Washington and New York.

The goals of the African-American museum, which was authorized by an act of Congress in 2003, are to “break the silences that have divided America and to help us remember that we are all shaped and made better by the African-American experience,” Bunch said.

The stamp caps a remarkable year for the museum, which former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush opened in 2016 with much fanfare.

Even with the museum’s milestones, Bunch never dreamed it would get its own stamp.

“I have to tell you, this is a very special moment because candidly, this takes our collective breath away,” Bunch said.

This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.