“To embrace the whole of America”: The Legacy of Hattie McDaniel

As movie fans eagerly await the Oscars, it’s worth remembering the night when black history forever became Hollywood history, too. At a banquet in 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award—and quietly bequeathed a legacy of hope to other black performers.

USPS06STA004BIn 2006, McDaniel was featured on a Black Heritage stamp—a potentially controversial decision for the Postal Service, because the actress dealt with withering scorn for playing maids and other stereotypical roles. “I’d rather play a maid than be one,” she often quipped, working behind the scenes to battle racism and discrimination in ways that her critics came to appreciate only later.

McDaniel won praise from the NAACP and the National Urban League when she played the title role on The Beulah Show, a radio program that aired from 1947 to 1952. As the lead in the first radio show to feature a black star, she insisted that her character not speak in dialect, and she successfully negotiated the right to alter scripts that didn’t meet her approval.

Of course, McDaniel’s ultimate claim to immortality remains her turn in the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind. Unfortunately, her actual award—not a statuette, but a small plaque—has long since vanished. Prior to her death in 1952, she bequeathed the plaque to Howard University, but it went missing sometime in the 1960s. The search for the award prompted a recent Washington Post feature story and a fascinating law journal article—and hope that it may someday reappear.

In the meantime, we’re pleased to have honored McDaniel on a stamp that shows her in the dress she wore on the biggest night of her career, and to have told her story on a commemorative panel. Her accomplishment was aptly and movingly summed up by actress Fay Bainter, who presented her with the Academy Award: “It opens the doors of this room, moves back the walls, and enables us to embrace the whole of America.”

We have two copies of the 2006 Hattie McDaniel commemorative panel to give away today. The 8 ½ x 11 ¼-inch panel includes a background narrative about McDaniel as well as historic images and a block of four mint Hattie McDaniel stamps in a protective acetate mount. To enter to win, all you have to do is email your name and address to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. Two winners will be selected at random. The deadline for entries is 10 p.m. EST, Friday, February 22. Good luck!

CONTEST UPDATE: Congratulations to our two winners: Tomekia Walker and Mark Pawelczak! If you didn’t win this time, don’t worry. We’ll have plenty more contests and giveaways throughout the year.

The Emancipation Proclamation, Modern Art, and A New Pixar Movie? Our Favorite Links of the Week

What a fantastic first week of 2013 this has been! Hundreds of you braved the cold early on New Year’s Day to stand in line at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C., to see the dedication of the Emancipation Proclamation stamp exactly 150 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the original document. Keeping up with all the news about the stamp since then has been difficult, but fun! Here are some of our favorite links from the week:

  • The National Archives has posted wonderful photographs from all three days that the Emancipation Proclamation was on display, including images from the stamp dedication ceremony and historic reading of the original document. Not to be missed!
  • PosterTo evoke the look of Civil War-era broadsides, Emancipation Proclamation stamp art director Antonio Alcalá and graphic designer Gail Anderson employed Hatch Show Print of Nashville, Tennessee, one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in the U.S. Read about how the stamp design was “Hatcherized” over at The Tennessean. Then visit Nashville’s WSMV-TV for a brief video about Hatch and the new stamp.
  • Want to know more about the processes used by Hatch Show Print? The Smithsonian has a fantastic 8-minute video, and if you’re as impressed as we are, you’ll want to consider the . The poster was created using antique wood type and ornamentation set by hand at Hatch Show Print.
  • In case you missed it, yesterday we posted a video of Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon reading the Emancipation Proclamation, and on Monday we’ll have another video with highlights from the stamp dedication ceremony, so be sure to check back.

What did we miss? Share your favorite Emancipation Proclamation stamp links in the comments.

Some other odds and end making us happy this week:

  • This Cultural Diary page includes a pane of 16 Romare Bearden stamps, featuring four different designs.

    Studio 360 has a wonderful new story about artist Romare Bearden, whose extraordinarily beautiful collages are featured on a stamp sheet from 2011 that is . (Psst, we will be giving away some Romare Bearden stamp-related products in the coming weeks.)

  • Studio 360 also has a new story about the year 1913, the year of the Armory Show in New York City. Several of the artists honored on the upcoming , including Marcel Duchamp, exhibited their work at this groundbreaking exhibit of modernist art.
  • And speaking of modern art, did you know that you can see many of the artists featured on the Modern Art in America stamp sheet at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City? The museum’s “American Legends: From Calder to O’Keeffe” exhibit showcases work by Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Joseph Stella, among others. Wow!
  • There’s a new biography soon to be out about poet Sylvia Plath that we’re itching to read. Although it was released last year, you can still buy and use the Sylvia Plath stamp, one of ten Twentieth-Century Poets stamps.
  • We were reminded on Twitter this week that February is A Month of Letters (#lettermo). Will you be taking part?
  • And, finally, we were excited by the news that Mike and Sully of Monsters, Inc. will reunite this June in the new Pixar movie Monsters University. Any excuse to send a is a good excuse, right?

Oh, we’d like to extend a special shout out to Kevin in Jacksonville, Florida, for the awesome 2-cent postcard he recently mailed to us.  Thanks, Kevin! You can find Kevin online here.


See you next week! Until then, please follow us on , Twitter, , Instagram, and Tumblr.

Mail A Smile This Holiday Season (Plus A Giveaway!)

We all love making others smile, especially at this time of year. Well, mailing a smile just got a little bit easier with this set of pre-stamped . The booklet of 20 cards features the following beloved Disney•Pixar characters:

The Mail A Smile stamped cards are available from The Postal Store. Click image for more info.

  • Flik and Dot from A Bug’s Life
  • Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) and Dashiell “Dash” Parr from The Incredibles
  • Nemo and Squirt from Finding Nemo
  • Woody, Bullseye, and Jessie from Toy Story 2
  • Boo, Mike Wazowski, and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan from Monsters, Inc.

Each set of stamped cards includes five different designs and early character sketches. Best of all, each card includes a pre-printed Mail a Smile (Forever®) stamp, so you’ll always have the right postage. Simply write a message, address, and send some cheer!

We have three sets of Mail A Smile stamped cards to give away. To enter all you have to do is send your name and address to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. Winners will be chosen at random. The deadline for entries is midnight, Tuesday, December 11. Good luck!

Start Your Week With A “Sketchy” Disney•Pixar Contest

Remember last week’s post about the blue-pencil sketches on the back of the Mail a Smile stamp sheet? Well, now’s your chance to show us how well you know the five Disney•Pixar movies featured on the stamps.

Here is the back of the stamp sheet again:

Can you name all the characters shown in the sketches? If so, you could win one set of Mail a Smile postcards, which include the stamp art and five of the sketches.

To enter, send your name and address along with the name of each character and the movie in which he/she/it appears to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. Three winners will be selected at random from those who answer correctly. You have until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 9/12 to submit your answers. Good luck!

Disney/Pixar Materials: © Disney•Pixar

Disney•Pixar Stamps Continue to Charm

If our Instagram feed is any indication, you all love the new Mail a Smile stamps. These “cute,” “adorable” stamps are the second in a two-part issuance that began last year with Send a Hello. Both sheets feature favorite characters from Disney•Pixar movies like Finding Nemo, Up, and Toy Story 2. And all of them have helped make mail time the best time of the day!

Most of the pictures of the Mail a Smile stamps that we see on Instagram look a little something like this. (We took this one for you all! )

But have you ever turned the pane over and looked closely at the back?

Those illustrations are actually blue-pencil sketches created by artists at Pixar Animation Studios. Even though Pixar is responsible for almost every major breakthrough in computer animation and continues to reset the bar in technology, the company begins every project the old-fashioned way: with a simple sketch. For Pixar, science inspires art and art challenges science. Both always serve the story; that’s the secret of Pixar’s success.

Want to share the stamps *and* sketches with your friends? The Mail a Smile postcards include both. (Click image to order.)

Come follow USPS Stamps on Instagram and show us your favorite stamps! And if you’re as crazy about Disney•Pixar movies as we are, head over to our newest Pinterest board, The Wonderful World of Disney.

Disney/Pixar Materials: © Disney•Pixar