Civil Rights Pioneers Honored on Stamps

Stamps highlight NAACP’s 100th Anniversary

“For more than 100 years, the NAACP has championed the cause of racial equality,” explained Marshall, “breaking down the strongholds of political, economic and social injustice. The NAACP and these 12 civil rights pioneers are inextricably linked. The hope of our nation is built on the legacies of these very special people and thousands of others whom we’ll never even know. That’s the spirit of America — bred in the sacrifices of a few for the benefit of many.”

Top row of stamps:

Villard was one of the founders of the NAACP and wrote “The Call” leading to its formation. His undated portrait comes from the records of the NAACP at the Library of Congress.

Bottom row of stamps:

As a courageous and capable official with the NAACP, she did difficult, dangerous work in the South. Hurley’s image is from a 1963 newspaper photo.

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“Most of the youngsters had been trained to believe in or to follow adults if they could,” she said. “I felt they ought to have a chance to learn to think things through and to make decisions.”

Hamer was in her 40s when she entered the civil rights movement. For most of her life, she had been unaware that she had the right to vote. When she tried to register in 1962, she lost her job and was beaten and shot at. Commenting later on the courage she showed in attempting to exercise her right, she remarked: “I guess if I’d had any sense I’d have been a little scared, but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do to me was kill me, and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time ever since I could remember.”

Hurley usually relied on legal grounds to make her point, but could also speak with forceful informality, as she did while discussing lunch-counter sit-ins in 1960. After citing the U.S. Constitution, Hurley exclaimed, “What we’re saying, Mr. White Folks, is this: You wrote it, and all we want you to do is live by it!”

His commitment to racial justice prompted Spingarn to devote time and resources toward building up the NAACP during its early years. Spingarn offered skillful leadership, serving in various executive positions. His brother Arthur provided the association with legal counsel.

“Besides a day of rejoicing, Lincoln’s birthday in 1909 should be one of taking stock of the nation’s progress since 1865,” Villard wrote. He decried racial discrimination, particularly widespread at that time in the South, where black citizens were denied voting rights and had to use separate sections of buses, trains and various public accommodations. “Silence under these conditions means tacit approval,” Villard continued. His closing words were “Hence we call upon all the believers in democracy to join in a national conference for the discussion of present evils, the voicing of protests, and the renewal of the struggle for civil and political liberty.”

In 1937, White was awarded the Spingarn Medal in honor of his fight for federal anti-lynching legislation and the courage he had shown while investigating dozens of lynchings.

Calling for an end to discrimination against people of color and for their accurate representations in the media, White served as a consultant to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations at its founding in 1945.

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