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First Day Covers

are envelopes containing commemorative stamps, appropriate postmarks and

artwork depicting the topic.

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Booker T Washington Stamp

Booker T.
on a Stamp, 1940


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First Day Covers & the Black Heritage Series

In 1978, the U.S. Postal Service, as part of its mission "to celebrate the people, events, and cultural milestones that are unique to our great nation," created a totally new stamp series to honor Black Americans and the vital role they play in U.S. history. Harriett Tubman was not only the first African-American woman to be honored on a stamp but was the first stamp issued in the Black Heritage Series on February 1, 1978.

Harriet Tubman
(click image for a free lesson)

Known as “Moses” for leading slaves to freedom up the Underground Railroad in the 1850’s, few know of Tubman’s work during the Civil War. Once the area around Port Royal, S. Ca. was held by Union forces in Nov. 1861, Tubman moved to Beaufort to help newly freed slaves and work with the 2nd S. Ca. Infantry under Col. James Montgomery. Because of Tubman’s intelligence gathering and planning, she led the troops up the Combahee River freeing over 700 slaves who were immediately transported to the resettlement camp on St. Helena Island. To read more about her work during and after the Civil War, go to

The sixth Black Heritage stamp, issued in 1984 honored Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the U.S. historian who began “Negro History Week” in February 1926. This son of former slaves began attending school at the age of 17 while working in the coal mines of West Virginia. He studied Latin and Greek between trips into the mines, and that determination led to degrees from the University of Chicago and Harvard.

Dr Carter Woodson's FDC
(click image to enlarge)

Dr. Woodson wrote several books and authored/edited the Journal of Negro History in order to formalize the study of Black history. He chose the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of two Americans who greatly impacted the lives of African-Americans, Abraham Lincoln, & Frederick Douglass.

Other February people or events that students might investigate include W.E.B. DuBois, also born in February, the ratification of the 15th Amendment, the election of Hiram R. Revels to the U.S. Senate, and the first meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. To read more about the origins of the Black Heritage Series, go to