WASHINGTON - Roy Wilkins, a famed civil rights pioneer, has many times been recognized for his infinite contributions and now will receive one of the nation's highest honor when the U.S. Postal Service issues a new commemorative postage stamp bearing his likeness.
Wilkins, former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) executive secretary and executive director, civil rights leader, and charter member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc (Xi Chapter), will become the 24th American honored in the long-running U. S. Postal Service's Black Heritage commemorative stamp series. Wilkins joins outstanding African-American activists, theorists, writers, educators and leaders in the series.
Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee member John Sawyer III will officially dedicate the stamp on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at noon (CST) in a first day of issue ceremony held at the University of Minnesota in Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, Minn.
"The university is pleased to join the Postal Service in honoring Roy Wilkins, one of our most distinguished alumni," said University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof. "A leader who advocated tirelessly for racial equality, Roy Wilkins is a role model and inspiration for all of us."
Joining Sawyer and Yudof in the historic event will be former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks, Omega Psi Phi Grand Basileus Lloyd Jordan, Tom Mathews, co-author Standing Fast, The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins, Franklin Middle School Afriocentric Educational Academy, great niece Amy Wilkins, and Wayne D. Rogers, U.S. Postal Service Northland District Manager.
Born in St. Louis, Mo., on Aug. 30, 1901, Wilkins was raised in the home of an aunt and uncle living in St. Paul, Minn. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1923, receiving a bachelor's degree in Sociology with a minor in journalism. On Sept. 8, 1981, Wilkins died in New York City at the age of 80.
Wilkins joined the NAACP in 1931 as assistant executive secretary. He led the NAACP from 1955 to 1977 as executive secretary and executive director. In 1934, Wilkins put his editorial talent to work for the NAACP, succeeding W.E.B. Du Bois as editor of The Crisis magazine, holding that position for 15 years.
"This is a great honor for Roy Wilkins' memory, the Wilkins family, and the NAACP he served so well for so long," said Julian Bond, NAACP Chairman, Board of Directors. "Always soft-spoken, he carried a big stick leading the thousands of organized volunteers of the country's oldest and largest civil rights organization. We honor ourselves when we honor him."
"This historic postal stamp is a fitting tribute to the lifelong work of "Mr. NAACP" Roy Wilkins. Mr. Wilkins dedicated himself to fighting for freedom and equality," said Kweisi Mfume, NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer. "He served both the NAACP and the nation well, and now the entire world will learn about the rich civil rights legacy of Roy Wilkins."
Wilkins advocated nonviolent means and the use of the legal system to achieve racial equality and to advance the rights of African Americans. Under his leadership, the NAACP campaigned for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Along with other civil rights leaders, Wilkins helped organize the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which he also delivered a speech.
In 1964, he was awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal, its highest award honoring outstanding achievement by an African American. Other awards he received include the Freedom House Award, Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Zale Award and the Russwurm Award of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. A Roy Wilkins Memorial was constructed in1995 in St. Paul, Minn.
Wilkins joins 23 other honorees in the Postal Service's Black Heritage series, which salutes outstanding African-American activists, theorists, writers, educators and leaders. Other notable Americans in the series include: Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Benjamin Banneker, Whitney Moore Young, Jackie Robinson, Scott Joplin, Carter G. Woodson, Mary McLeod Bethune, Sojourner Truth, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, James Weldon Johnson, A. Philip Randolph, Ida B. Wells, Jan E. Matzeliger, W.E.B. Du Bois, Percy Lavon Julian, Dr. Allison Davis, Bessie Coleman, Ernest E. Just, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., Madam C.J. Walker, Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) and Patricia Roberts Harris who was honored in January 2000.
The stamp was designed by Richard Sheaff of Scottsdale, Ariz., and is the sixth in the Black Heritage series to feature a photograph. The black-and-white photograph was taken in the 1940s by Morgan and Marvin Smith, twin brothers who documented the achievements of African Americans.
The Postal Service continues its commitment to honoring the historical achievements and contributions of African Americans. The Black Heritage stamp series is very popular, and given its significant educational importance, it will continue in the future.
On Jan. 25, 200 million Roy Wilkins self-adhesive 34-cent stamps will be available at post offices nationwide.