Monday Morning Brief | Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee

Feb 6, 2017, 3 AM

Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses the Postal Service’s Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee and the recent departure of Henry Louis Gates Jr. after 12 years on the panel, the maximum time allowed.

Full video transcript:

Welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for February 6, 2017

The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee is down to 11 members. Henry Louis Gates Jr. has left after serving the maximum 12 years allowed on the panel.

In an interview with Linn’s Washington Correspondent Bill McAllister Gates said he would have never resigned from the panel, adding that it was his favorite one to serve on.

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In addition to being a noted Harvard professor of African and African-American research, Gates is a literary scholar, journalist, author, filmmaker. His documentaries include Finding Your Roots, which currently airs on PBS.

The roots of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee are believed to date back to the 1940s.

Many have suggested that it was the 1948 3¢ Poultry Industrial Chicken stamp — which has long been widely regarded as one of the least-necessary U.S. commemorative stamps ever — and other similar special-interest stamps that led to a call for a group to oversee the selection of topics to be honored on our postage.

Whatever the impetus, it was almost a decade before the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee was established by Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield in March of 1957. The announcement at the time said that the group “shall advise the Post Office Department on any matters pertaining to the subject matter, design, production and issuance of postage stamps.”

The role of the committee hasn’t changed much. On its website today, the United States Postal Service says, “The group selects subjects for recommendation as future stamp issues, made with all postal customers in mind, including stamp collectors.”

Also, as in 1957, the postmaster general is the one who appoints new committee members. These members come from many different fields, the Postal Service specifically states that they “provide expertise on history, science and technology, art, education, sports, and other subjects of public interest.” The stamp hobby is represented as well. The committee is currently chaired by Janet Klug, a lifelong collector, a former president of the American Philatelic Society and a Linn’s columnist. Another prominent collector and the former chief curator of philately for the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, Cheryl Ganz, also serves on the committee.

As Bill McAllister points out in his report about Gates’ departure from the committee, its deliberations are kept secret. However, McAllister said that Gates told him in an interview that the panel has approved all his suggestions for stamps celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to the United States.

These include the three most recent stamps in the Black Heritage series. They honori architect Robert Robinson Taylor; Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and most recently civil rights leader and activist Dorothy Height. She was honored on a stamp just issued Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month.

Gates also told McAllister that an upcoming set of stamps will commemorate key players in the Harlem Renaissance, an early 20th-century cultural, artistic and social explosion.

Gates himself has been pictured on a postage stamp, part of a pane of six issued by Ghana in 1998 paying tribute to Great Black Writers of the 20th Century.

For Linn’s Stamp News and Scott catalogs, I’m Denise McCarty. Keep up on the latest stamp news by following Linn’s on on Facebook and Twitter.