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African American History Month

Annual celebration begins Feb. 1

William H. Carney, a soldier during the Civil War, was appointed a letter carrier in 1869 and was the first African American to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor. Image: Library of Congress

The Postal Service will observe African American History Month in February.

Traditionally, USPS commemorates the occasion with the release of the latest stamp in its Black Heritage series. This year the stamp honors Edmonia Lewis, a 19th-century neoclassical sculptor who left the United States as a young woman to pursue her art in Rome.

The Lewis stamp is the 45th in the series.

The move to commemorate Black history began in the early 20th century with educator Carter G. Woodson. He led an effort to create a weeklong observance to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12).

Students in the late 1960s and 1970s turned the observance into a month, which was championed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976.

Two years later, the Postal Service began its Black Heritage series of stamps, a collection that has included luminaries such as Colonial-era mathematician Benjamin Banneker, 21st-century journalist Gwen Ifill and Woodson himself.

Each year, a group founded by Woodson, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, chooses a theme for the month.

This year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness. The group will hold a virtual festival with programming that explores the theme in depth.

The Postal History section has more information, including articles on African American postal employees of the 19th and 20th centuries and a list of African American stamp subjects.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Blue page has more information about USPS cultural awareness. For more information or to share feedback, send an email to