Released last week, the latest series of United States Postal Service (USPS) stamps commemorate one of the United State’s most culturally rich periods, the Harlem Renaissance. The sheath of 55-cent forever stamps brandish stylized portraits of key Harlem figures Nella Larsen, Alaine Locke, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, and Anne Spencer.
Spanning the 1920s, the movement brought to the fore a generation of literary, musical, and artistic minds, and this year is considered its 100th anniversary. Alongside the USPS’s four honorees, some of the artists who gained prominence during the period include Romare Bearden, Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence, Lois Mailou Jones, and Charles Alston, along with writers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes.
Influencing creative movements throughout the last century, their legacies remain indisputable.
Larsen, Locke, Schomburg, and Spencer — each multifaceted in their own right, having explored philosophy, poetry, and education — were integral to the critical intellectual output of the period.
Schomburg, an Afro-Latinx historian, bibliophile, and collector who advocated for Puerto Rican independence, is the namesake of New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, which remains one of the most vital repositories of global Black cultural history.
Locke, author of The New Negro (1925), considered a foundational text of the period, is sometimes referred to as the “father of the Harlem Renaissance.”
Larsen, a novelist, is best known for her texts about racial identity and socialization, Quicksand and Passing.
An educator and poet, Anne Spencer’s civil rights activism in her home state of Virginia was profoundly impactful on her Harlemite peers.
Based on historic photographs and aestheticized in soft primary colors, the “Voices of the Harlem Renaissance” stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding, with artwork by Gary Kelley. The stamps are currently available for purchase online through the USPS, and in post offices across the US.
I can’t be the only one who finds it hard to believe they couldn’t find a black artist or design firm for this project.
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