US Stamps

African American history and culture honored on stamp picturing museum

Apr 29, 2021, 7 AM

By Michael Baadke

Exactly one year to the day after the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a new nondenominated (49¢) forever stamp will be issued to honor both the museum and the vast saga of the black experience in America that the museum preserves and chronicles.

The stamp will be issued Sept. 24, a Sunday, in a pane of 20. A limited-admission first-day ceremony is planned for 8:30 a.m. at the museum, 1400 Constitution Ave. NW in Washington. The Postal Service has not formally released ceremony details, but an RSVP form has been posted online.

The stamp design was created by United States Postal Service art direct Antonio Alcala, based on a photograph by architectural photographer Alan Karchmer.

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Karchmer’s website notes that he uses an Alpa medium-format technical camera and Phase One IQ260 digital back with Schneider and Rodenstock lenses.

The photograph used for the stamp vignette shows a view of the northwest corner of the museum, which opened Sept. 24, 2016.

Describing itself as “a museum that seeks to understand American history through the lens of the African American experience,” the National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress signed by President George W. Bush.

However, efforts to create a museum commemorating African American history began nearly a century earlier, and finally materialized after civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) persisted in introducing bills for such a museum in each session of Congress over a period of 15 years.

Lewis spoke at the groundbreaking for the museum in 2012, as did President Barack Obama.

“The idea for a museum dedicated to African Americans was first put forward by black veterans of the Civil War,” Obama said. “And years later, the call was picked up by members of the civil rights generation — by men and women who knew how to fight for what was right and strive for what is just.”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution, which has itself been featured on United States stamps three times: a 3¢ commemorative for the 100th anniversary issued Aug. 10, 1946 (Scott 943); a 15¢ stamp in the American Architecture series issued Oct. 9, 1980 (1838); and a 32¢ commemorative for the 150th anniversary issued Feb. 7, 1996 (3059).

Other Smithsonian museums acknowledged or honored on U.S. stamps include the National Portrait Gallery on the 6¢ Chief Joseph stamp issued Nov. 4, 1968 (Scott 1364); and the National Postal Museum, on a set of four 29¢ stamps issued when that museum opened on July 30, 1993 (2779-2782).

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has collected close to 37,000 historical artifacts, including documents and other media. Its doors are open to all who hope to learn more about African American culture, and to explore “what it means to be an American and share how American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality are reflected in African American history and culture.”

Entry to the museum is free, but timed entry passes are required. Information about obtaining a pass can be found on the museum website.

The museum is open every day except Dec. 25, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Along with the panes of 20 forever stamps that will be sold at post offices nationwide, the Postal Service will offer an undisclosed number of die-cut 180-stamp press sheets (nine unsevered panes) for the face value of $88.20. Press sheets are available from USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services.

Two pictorial first-day cancels are also being offered.

The black pictorial cancel includes a geometric design resembling weaving at right, and the text “Celebrating African American History & Culture.”

The same wording appears on the digital color postmark that will be used on special uncacheted first-day covers sold by the Postal Service. The color postmark is composed of text only, printed in black and dark red.

Technical details and first-day cover ordering information for the National Museum of African American History and Culture stamp are presented below.

Nondenominated (49¢) National Museum of African American History and Culture forever stamp

FIRST DAY— Sept. 24, 2017; city— Washington, D.C., and nationwide.

DESIGN: photographer— Alan Karchmer; designer, typographer and art director— Antonio Alcala, Alexandria, Va.; modelers— Sandra Lane and Michelle Finn.

PRINTING: process— offset with microprinting; printer and processor— Banknote Corporation of America, Browns Summit, N.C.; press— Alprinta 74; inks— cyan, magenta, yellow, black; paper— phosphor tagged, block tagging; gum— self-adhesive; print quantity— 15 million stamps; format— pane of 20 from 180-subject cylinders; size— 1.42 inches by 1.085 inches (image); 1.56 inches by 1.225 inches (overall); 7.24 inches by 7.50 inches (pane); 21.72 inches by 22.50 inches (press sheet); plate numbers— “B” followed by four single digits; marginal markings— “Celebrating African American History and Culture,” plate numbers in two corners of pane (front); “©2016 USPS,” USPS logo, pane position diagram, bar code 474200 in two corners, promotional text (back); USPS item No.— 474204.

First-day cancel ordering information

Standard ordering instructions apply. Collectors requesting first-day cancels are encouraged to purchase their own stamps and affix them to envelopes. The first-day cover envelopes should be addressed for return (a removable label may be used), and mailed in a larger envelope addressed to FDOI-Celebrating African American History and Culture Stamp, USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services, 8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300, Kansas City, MO 64144-9900.

Requests for first-day cancels must be postmarked by Nov. 24. The Postal Service’s uncacheted National Museum of African American History and Culture first-day cover is item 474216 at 93¢. USPS item numbers for stamps and FDCs also appear in Linn’s 2017 U.S. Stamp Program.