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History came alive at the Underground Railroad stamp ceremony

The speakers included an actor who played Harriet Tubman

A Black woman in a Civil War era costume speaks in front of an Underground Railroad stamp poster
Millicent Sparks performs as Harriet Tubman at the Underground Railroad stamp ceremony.

The Postal Service celebrated the ingenuity, bravery and resilience of the men and women who helped guide enslaved people to freedom before the Civil War at the March 9 dedication ceremony for the Underground Railroad stamps.

The event was held in Church Creek, MD, at a visitor center named for Harriet Tubman, a conductor for the Underground Railroad and one of the 10 people featured on the stamps.

“For many enslaved African Americans, the Underground Railroad was their only hope to escape the brutality of slavery,” said Ronald A. Stroman, a member of the USPS Board of Governors. “The Underground Railroad demonstrated the power of collective action and solidarity in achieving social change, even when the odds seemed insurmountable.”

The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses that assisted and safeguarded enslaved people in their flight to freedom.

The stamps feature sepia-toned portraits of important figures in the cause, including Tubman, Catharine Coffin, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, Laura Haviland, Lewis Hayden, Harriet Jacobs, William Lambert, Jermain Loguen and William Still.

“I am honored to participate in this dedication that celebrates Harriet Tubman and other operatives of the Underground Railroad,” said Millicent Sparks, an actor and writer who performed as Tubman at the ceremony.

“Their secret network aiding in the escapes of enslaved people aggravated the institution of slavery so badly that a war was fought over it…. All of these individuals are the reason we wake up free every morning,” she said.

The ceremony’s other speakers were Joshua Kurtz, Maryland secretary of natural resources; Deanna Mitchell, superintendent of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park; historian Kate Clifford Larson; Daniel Hunter, an author and activist; and Antonio Alcalá, an art director for USPS who designed the stamps.

Other participants included descendants of some of the people honored on the stamps: Ernestine “Tina” Wyatt and Douglas Mitchell, descendants of Tubman; Bob Seeley, a descendant of Garrett; historian Valerie Still; and Tarence Bailey Sr., a descendant of Douglass.

Dana Paterra, Eastern region manager for the Maryland Park Service, served as master of ceremonies.

The Underground Railroad stamps are available in panes of 20 at Post Offices and