Tomorrow Is National Public Lands Day: Got Plans?

“This land is your land, this land is my land.” – Woody Guthrie

If you take Woody Guthrie’s famous words literally, you might be interested in National Public Lands Day, which just happens to be tomorrow, Saturday, September 28. Public lands belong to all Americans . . . and just like your own backyard, sometimes these spaces need a little work!

To celebrate National Public Lands Day, volunteers will gather together at sites as varied as state parks, community gardens, beaches, and wildlife preserves to lend a helping hand. You can find a place that’s looking for volunteers in your area by visiting http://www.publiclandsday.org/npld-sites.

This year’s celebration marks the 20th annual National Public Lands Day. In honor of the anniversary, here’s a quick stamp quiz:

Which two 2013 stamps depict places where you can volunteer on September 28th?

Answer: The 1963 March on Washington and The Civil War: 1863

Public Lands DuoThe 1963 March on Washington stamp showcases the National Mall in Washington, D.C. On National Public Lands Day, volunteers will rake leaves, pick up litter, and beautify the area.

One of the two stamps included on The Civil War: 1863 souvenir stamp sheet depicts the Battle of Vicksburg. Volunteers at Vicksburg National Military Park will plant roses at the historic Shirley House on September 28.

Public lands are perennial stamp subjects. (In 2012, they were shown on the New Mexico Statehood and the Glacier National Park stamps). Pitching in on this special Saturday is a way to keep these lands healthy and beautiful for future generations . . . and for future stamps!

Who Inspired You to Take a Stand for Equality?

Rosa Parks (click to order)

The Rosa Parks Forever® stamp was issued February 4, 2013, and is available nationwide. Click the image for details. (Rosa Parks’s name and image used under license with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.)

The influence of family can be a powerful thing. When asked who inspired her as a child, Rosa Parks, an extraordinary American activist, answered: “My family, I would say, my mother, and my maternal grandparents. I grew up with them.”

On December 1, 1955, Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man. Her arrest sparked a boycott of the Montgomery bus system that lasted longer than a year, posing an ultimately successful challenge to racial segregation and inspiring others to similar action.

“My mother was a teacher in a little school,” she said later, “and she believed in freedom and equality for people, and did not have the notion that we were supposed to live as we did, under legally enforced racial segregation. She didn’t believe in it. . . . We were human beings and we should be treated as such.”

Rosa Parks’s lifelong dedication to civil rights has influenced generations of Americans, maybe even in your own family. Use the worksheets below to trace your roots and discover how the struggle for equality impacts you.

WorksheetDownload a PDF version of the worksheets by clicking here. To read more of the fascinating interview with Rosa Parks, visit the Academy of Achievement website.

MarchOnWashington-Forever-single-BGv1Released on February 4, 2013, the Rosa Parks Forever® stamp is the second stamp in the 2013 civil rights stamp set. The first stamp, commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation, was released on January 1 and has been so popular that USPS ordered a second printing of 10 million more stamps. The third stamp in the 2013 civil rights set commemorates the 1963 March on Washington and was released on August 23 in a moving ceremony at The Newseum in Washington, D.C. You can find the entire set online at usps.com/stamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), or at your local post office.

Video Highlights: 1963 March on Washington Stamp Release

Last month Americans everywhere joined together to help launch the new 1963 March on Washington Forever® stamp. Here are some of our favorite moments from this historic event:


What was your favorite moment of the celebration?

50 Years Ago Today: The March on Washington Dream Continues

USPS99STA126Fifty years ago today, some 250,000 people took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The highlight of the event was the powerful “I Have a Dream” speech that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The march was the brainchild of labor leader A. Philip Randolph, a seventy-four-year-old veteran of battles against racial discrimination. Randolph had proposed a similar march in 1941, but cancelled it after President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to remove barriers to employing blacks in the defense industry during World War II. Two decades later, with black unemployment double the rate for whites, he again called for a mass demonstration “for Negro job rights.”

SingleRandolph picked up support for his idea in the spring of 1963, after law officer Eugene “Bull” Connor turned police dogs and fire hoses on peaceful demonstrators (many of them children) in Birmingham, Alabama. The protests were part of a campaign led by Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strike down Birmingham’s segregation ordinances and open up job opportunities for the city’s black residents. King was arrested during the campaign, and wrote his famous “Letter From Birmingham City Jail” advocating civil disobedience against unjust laws. The events in Birmingham sparked hundreds of demonstrations across the nation and drew worldwide attention.

Hoping to keep up the pressure for change, King and leaders of the major civil rights organizations—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Conference of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Urban League—joined Randolph in calling for a march on Washington. “We are on the threshold of a significant breakthrough,” King told confidants, “and the greatest weapon is mass demonstration.”

In June, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announced plans for a “massive, militant, and monumental” demonstration in Washington and across the nation. That same month President John F. Kennedy sent a civil rights bill to Congress. Concerned that a mass demonstration in Washington might actually harden Congressional opposition to his civil rights bill, Kennedy invited civil rights leaders to a meeting at the White House to persuade them to call off the march. But those who met with Kennedy, including Randolph and King, insisted on going forward. “There will be a march,” Randolph bluntly informed the president.

Framed Art

Honor a significant anniversary in the struggle for African-American civil rights, with this collectible, framed print. Click the image for details.

The goals of the march, according to a statement of the organizers, would include a civil rights bill to bring an end to segregated public accommodations; immediate ‘‘desegregation of all public schools’’; voting rights; laws to bar discrimination in employment; a large-scale federal works program ‘‘to train and place unemployed workers’’; and a national minimum wage. Put more broadly, the purpose of the demonstration, King told reporters, was “to arouse the conscience of the nation on the economic plight of the Negro one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation and to demand strong forthright civil rights legislation.”

Planners initially hoped to get 100,000 participants. But by noon on the day of the march, it became clear the event would attract more than twice that number. All morning long, “freedom trains” arrived in Union Station, at a rate of one every ten minutes. More than 2,000 chartered buses brought demonstrators from all over the country.

The lengths to which some individuals went were truly amazing. One young person skated all the way from Chicago, wearing a sash that read “Freedom,” while an eighty-two-year-old bicycled from Ohio. Twelve youths from Brooklyn walked all the way to Washington, while three teenagers from Gadsden, Alabama, carrying a sign reaUSPS05STA022Gding “To Washington or Bust,” hitchhiked the nearly 700 miles to the nation’s capital. As Bayard Rustin, the main organizer of the event, observed, “It wasn’t the Harry Belafontes and the greats from Hollywood that made the march. What made the march was that black people voted that day with their feet.”

The violence that the FBI and much of official Washington girded for that day never materialized. A congressman from South Carolina warned that the march was “reminiscent of the Mussolini Fascist blackshirt march on Rome” and of “Socialist Hitler’s government-sponsored rallies in Nuremberg.” But such fears proved unfounded, and the prediction of comedian and activist Dick Gregory that the event would be like “a great big Sunday school picnic” proved closer to the mark.

Marchers heard performances by popular artists of the day. Joan Baez entertained the early-arriving crowd at the Washington Monument by singing “Oh Freedom,” a spiritual made popular by Odetta (the “Queen of American folk music,” in King’s words). Odetta herself followed with the song “I’m On My Way.” Peter, Paul, and Mary performed their new hit, Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and Dylan sang a ballad about the recent murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

USPS05STA011Later in the program, as the crowd gathered before the Lincoln Memorial, Marian Anderson, famous for her historic concert at the memorial in 1939 (after being denied the use of Constitution Hall due to her race), sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Mahalia Jackson also stirred the crowd with “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned,” a spiritual with roots in the slave experience.

Various speakers addressed the crowd, but one in particular besides King stood out. John Lewis, representing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, delivered a fiery speech that, even after being toned down at the insistence of the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C., still burned with passion. To those who counseled patience, Lewis responded, “We do not want our freedom gradually but we want to be free now. We are tired. We are tired of being beat on by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again, and then you holler ‘Be patient!’ How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now!”

SingleWhen King stepped to the podium, Randolph introduced him as “the moral leader of our nation.” King began by noting the momentous nature of the occasion, calling it “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” He then spoke from the text he had prepared the night before. Asserting that the promises of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Emancipation Proclamation remained unfulfilled for black citizens, he compared those promises to a “bad check” that the marchers had come to cash to obtain “the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

King continued reading from his text until he quoted the prophet Amos: “We will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” The crowd roared in response, and King skipped whole paragraphs of his prepared speech and asked the marchers to “go back” to Mississippi, to Alabama, and to the “slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” Behind him, Mahalia Jackson, who had heard King speak before about his dream of a renewed America, shouted, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” As King later explained: “All of a sudden, this thing came to me that I have used—I’d used it many times before, that thing about ‘I have a dream’—and I just felt that I wanted to use it here.”

T-shirt

Wear your support on your sleeve and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and The 1963 March on Washington Forever® stamp with this collectible t-shirt. Click the image for details.

And from that point on King delivered the heart of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He offered a powerful and prophetic vision of an America freed from racism, unlike anything in the political discourse of the 1960s. As historian Drew Hansen writes, King “added something completely fresh to the way that Americans thought about race and civil rights. He gave the nation a vision of what it could look like if all things were made new.”

The march itself was just as important as King’s speech. Philip Randolph called it “the most beautiful and glorious day” of his life. King’s lieutenant, Ralph Abernathy, similarly called the march “the greatest day in my life.” The huge turnout, he believed, demonstrated “unity in the black coUSPS05STA022Hmmunity for the cause of freedom of justice.” Bayard Rustin told the southern poet Robert Penn Warren that the march gave African Americans “an identity which is a part of the national struggle in this country for the extension of democracy.”

Less than a year after the march, Congress passed and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which desegregated public institutions and outlawed job discrimination. Soon thereafter the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided for federal oversight of voting rights in the South, became the law of the land.

MarchOnWashington-Forever-single-BGv1The 1963 March on Washington stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.

Rep. John Lewis, Gabrielle Union, & Thousands of Americans Help Unveil 1963 March on Washington Stamp

Equality now has a stamp of its own as the U.S. Postal Service introduces the 1963 March on Washington limited-edition Forever® stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic milestone. For the first time, we unveiled the stamp artwork with the help of people across the country. Throughout this month, individuals added their photos to the March on Washington Stamp Mosaic on the USPS Stamps Facebook page to help reveal a small piece of the stamp.

During Friday’s First Day of Issue ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., actress Gabrielle Union added her Twitter profile photo to the mosaic to reveal the final piece of the 1963 March on Washington stamp.

003004Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the last surviving speaker at the march, joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund President and CEO Wade Henderson; U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr.; Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman; and Union to officially dedicate the stamp and underscore the importance of this historic event.

008“It is so appropriate and so fitting for the United States Postal Service to issue this Forever stamp on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington,” said Lewis. “The march was one of the turning points in the on-going struggle for civil rights and social justice in America. In the years to come, when individuals use this stamp, they will be reminded of the distance we have come and the progress we have made as a nation. And they will be reminded of the civic duty of every American to stand up for what is right in our democracy.”

“It’s an honor to be here in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and dedicate a stamp that commemorates what Dr. King described as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation,” said Stroman. “The U.S. Postal Service takes pride in being able to recognize historic events by issuing these limited-edition stamps commemorating the ‘Best of America.’”

013Fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, nearly a quarter of a million people came together in Washington, DC, to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was then that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.

USPS_Facebook_08.30_Stamps_v01The 1963 March on Washington stamp is the last of three stamps issued this year as part of a civil rights series commemorating courage, strength and equality in America. The first Forever stamp marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in January, while the second Forever stamp honored Rosa Parks on the 100th anniversary of her birth in February.

An inspiring word appears in large type in the selvage of each civil rights stamp pane:  “Freedom” on the Emancipation Proclamation stamp sheet. “Courage” on the Rosa Parks stamp sheet and “Equality on the 1963 March on Washington stamp sheet.

005Under the art direction of Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Virginia, stamp artist Gregory Manchess of New York City depicts marchers against the background of the Washington Monument. Placards calling for equal rights and jobs for all—two principal themes of the march—are prominently displayed. Using broad strokes and painting with oils on gessoed illustration board, Manchess conveys an impressionistic effect of the historic occasion.

The 1963 March on Washington Forever® stamp is now available at usps.com/stamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and at Post Offices nationwide. Add it to your collection today!