Creating commemorative postage stamp designs is a good way for students to celebrate Black History Month and the inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th president. In 1940, the first stamp issued in honor of a black American was released. The image was of educator Booker T. Washington.
Since then, many black Americans' lives and contributions have been celebrated on stamps. Some of them include Harriet Tubman,abolitionist; Billie Holiday, jazz singer; Ralph Bunche,
statesman and Nobel Peace Prize recipient; Martin Luther King, Jr., minister and civil rights activist; Jackie Robinson, baseball player, and Madam C.J. Walker, entrepreneur.
Before beginning the design work, students need to gather information about black Americans and events that are important in their history. Two excellent online resources are Black History: Exploring African-American Issues, and Stamp On Black History.
They are located at the following:
You Will Need:
Have students study lettering in magazine and
newspaper ads, and notice how important the styles are in conveying messages. Ask them to keep their lettering simple and uniform. Remember to capitalize proper names, and try not to mix lower and upper case letters within a name or word.
After doing the research, students are ready to design the stamps. Download the blank postage stamp or have students create their stamps on plain copy paper. There are some basic elements that must be included on the stamps. They are as follows: USA, 42, the name of the person, place, or event, and the image. Have students draw their designs with colored pencils, pen and ink, or markers.
While it's not necessary for our purposes to strictly follow them, you may be interested in knowing the Criteria for Stamp Subject Selection. These guidelines, which were provided by the United States Postal Service, are used in
selecting subjects that are eligible to appear on postage stamps.
Criteria for Stamp Subject Selection
A group known as the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee composed of educators, artists, and other experts in their fields recommend subjects and designs to the Postmaster General. In addition, they select the artists who will execute the designs. The following is a simplified version of the Criteria for Stamp Subject Selection which the committee uses in selecting themes and subjects:
1. In general, only American or American-related subjects will be featured.
2. Portraits of living people are forbidden.
3. Commemorative stamps honoring individuals usually will be issued on his or her birthday and no sooner than ten years after the individual's death. However, a deceased United States president can be honored with a memorial stamp on the first anniversary following death.
4. Anniversaries of important historical events will be commemorated in multiples of 50 years.
5. Only events and themes with national significance which appeal to a broad range of people will be considered. Local and regional events are not eligible.
6. Stamps shall not be issued to honor commercial enterprises, products, fraternal, political, sectarian, or service/charitable organizations that exist primarily to solicit and distribute funds.
7. Cities, towns, municipalities, counties, primary or secondary schools, hospitals, libraries, or similar institutions cannot be honored by appearing on stamps. For the most part, their vast numbers make it impractical to single out any one for the honor.
8. Statehood anniversaries will be considered only at intervals of 50 years from the date of the state's entry into the Union.
9. Religious institutions and individuals whose main achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs are ineligible.
10. Stamps or stationery items with "added values" shall not be issued. It would be difficult to determine which organization should receive the revenue generated from them, because there are so many worthy, fund-raising organizations in existence.
11. Stamps honoring significant anniversaries of universities and other institutions of higher learning shall be considered only in regard to the Historic Preservation Series postal cards.
12. Subjects which have been represented on stamps are eligible only every ten years. Exceptions to this rule include stamps which recognize traditional themes such as Christmas, U.S. Flags, Love, etc.