AMHERST, Mass. - The U.S. Postal Service will unveil a new 32-cent stamp honoring civil rights pioneer, author, and educator W.E.B. Du Bois in a special ceremony Jan. 8 at the University of Massachusetts. The 11 a.m. event will take place in the Special Collections and Archives room on the 25th floor of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.
The unveiling ceremony is part of the Postal Service’s two-year "Celebrate the Century Series," which will honor the most significant people, places, events, and trends of the 20th century. The series is being launched in January, with the unveiling of 30 stamps in 30 days at 30 different locations, commemorating the century’s first two decades, 1900-1910 and 1910-1920.
The UMass ceremony is the only unveiling scheduled for New England, and one of only two such events in the northeastern U.S.
"We are pleased to be selected by the Postal Service as the site for this special ceremony," says Margo Crist, director of libraries. "W.E.B. Du Bois was an extraordinary thinker and spokesperson for open learning who recognized the value of new ideas. As a knowledge resource for the academic community and the residents of the commonwealth, our library supports the quest for learning that he valued."
The W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass was named in honor of Du Bois in February 1996. The library houses the Du Bois Papers, which document every stage of Du Bois’s long career and demonstrate his involvement in many of this century’s racial, literary, and social reform movements. The University acquired the papers in 1973.
Du Bois’s stepson, David G. DuBois, is a visiting professor of Afro-American studies and journalism at UMass.
At the ceremony, Chancellor David K. Scott will offer greetings and Jon Steele, Northeast Area Vice President, U.S. Postal Service, will speak. Master of ceremonies will be Phillip Dennis, Springfield district manager, U.S. Postal Service. Former UMass Chancellor Randolph Bromery, currently president of Springfield College who was instrumental in bringing Du Bois’s papers to UMass, will perform the unveiling.
A native of Great Barrington, Du Bois was born Feb. 23, 1868. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. In 1905, Du Bois founded The Niagara Movement, the precursor to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1919, he organized the Pan-African Congress in Paris, one of several international conferences held between the First World War and 1945 to try to unite blacks.
The author of 19 books, Du Bois was a strong proponent of public education and its role in creating a democratic and just society. He was a recipient of the NAACP’s most prestigious award, The Spingarn Medal, and he taught for many years at Atlanta University. Du Bois died in Ghana Aug. 27, 1963, and was eulogized by Martin Luther King Jr., on Aug. 28 as the March on Washington began.
The new stamp is actually the second to honor Du Bois. In 1992, the Postal Service issued a 29-cent Du Bois stamp as part of its Black Heritage Series. On the earlier stamp, Du Bois appears in a head-and-shoulders portrait, with his eyes gazing slightly to the right. In the lower left corner of the stamp, somewhat in background, he is depicted at a typewriter. The design of the new stamp will not be revealed until the unveiling.
The Du Bois stamp will go on sale Feb. 3. On that date, two sheets of 15 stamps each, commemorating the 1900s and 1910s, and including the new Du Bois stamp, will be issued. Individual commemorative stamps will be available for sale only as part of the 15-stamp sheets.
Stamp subjects representing the years 1900-1949 for the Celebrate the Century program have already been recommended by the Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. The subjects for stamps representing the years 1950-1999 will be selected by a public ballot.