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African Americans Honored on Postage Stamps pt 7

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Raised in abolitionist traditions by his minister father, A. Philip Randolph mirrored those beliefs for more than 60 years as a tireless champion of equal rights and equal opportunity. In 1925 he organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and in 1937, after 12 years of contentious and often bitter struggle with the Pullman Company, he achieved the first union contract signed by a white employer and an African-American labor union.

Born in Dawson, Georgia, in 1941, Otis Redding began his singing career in the church choir. As a teenager, he competed in local talent shows and started to work professionally. In the mid-1960s, Redding had a number of hit songs and his style and popularity were growing. But on December 10, 1967, he died in a plane crash. Just a few days before his death, he had recorded “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” which eventually reached the top spot on the pop charts.

Paul Robeson was a tireless and uncompromising advocate for civil rights and social justice. At Rutgers University, he was a 2-year All-American in football, valedictorian, and a Phi Beta Kappa. Later, he earned a law degree at Columbia University, but soon turned to singing and acting. He was especially known for his renditions of black spirituals and also his stage role in Othello. By the late 1930s, he had become very active and outspoken on behalf of racial justice, social progress, and international peace.


Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947, had a 10-year all-star career, became the first African American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and had his number 42 retired by Major League Baseball in 1997. More important than his accomplishments in baseball are his contributions to racial equality in the United States, of which his many baseball “firsts” are just one part. After his retirement from baseball in 1956, he became very active in the civil rights movement, working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and on several political campaigns to help break barriers for all people, not just athletes. The 20-cent stamp was issued August 2, 1982, the 33-cent stamp of Robinson sliding was issued February 18, 1999, and the 33-cent stamp of him fielding was issued July 6, 2000.


Few people would have expected that a child who suffered from polio and wore leg braces for several years would one day be proclaimed “the world’s fastest woman,” but that’s the story of Wilma Rudolph, who at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, won three gold medals in sprint events (the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4-x-100-meter relay events). Rudolph, who also won a bronze medal in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, won several awards and was inducted into the Black Sports Hall of Fame in 1980. After retiring from competition, Rudolph worked as a teacher, track coach, and sports broadcaster. She also served in several government programs helping underprivileged youth. She also founded the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to promote community-based, youth-oriented athletic and academic programs. In her honor, the Women’s Sports Foundation annually presents the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award to a female athlete who exhibits fortitude, perseverance, self-sacrifice, and inspiration.


Linked with famed bandleaders such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Walter Page, and Buck Clayton, Jimmy Rushing established himself as one of the greatest singers of both jazz and the blues.


Bessie Smith, known as the “empress of the blues,” reigned in the 1920s across the United States and Europe. Her expansive range brought blues music to new audiences of all backgrounds. She made more than a hundred recordings, both of blues and popular songs, paving the way for future blues singers and jazz musicians.