‘Ghosts,’ The Coast

Mississippi featured on three 2009 stamps

Their images are depicted on three 2009 U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamps. This year they join the likes of Lassie, “The Tonight Show,” Abraham Lincoln, wedding cakes and actor Gary Cooper, all on other special stamps.

The first for Mississippi, a combined portrait of Hamer and Evers, comes out in mid-February and is included in a six-stamp issue of American civil rights pioneers.

Hamer, a sharecropper who fought for black voting rights, is famous for her “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” quote. Evers, who was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s first field secretary in Mississippi and the subject of “Ghosts of Mississippi,” was assassinated in 1963.

The Civil Rights Pioneers series will be issued Feb. 21 and the six stamps dedicated in New York City during an NAACP meeting that day.

In June comes the stamp that features the Mississippi state flag and several black bears. Bears are no official symbol of the state, but the stamp artist, Tom Engemen of Delaware, deliberately avoided usual state icons. He chose illustrations in keeping with Katharine Lee Bates’ song “America the Beautiful” which illustrates the vast diversity of the country.

This Mississippi stamp is in Flags of Our Nation, a three-year series launched on Flag Day 2008. Each of the six sets will feature 10 state or territorial flags, chosen alphabetically, with the new June set spotlighting Kentucky through Missouri plus the Stars and Stripes. They are sold in a roll and each $21 roll has 50 stamps, or five images of each stamp. They are double the size of standard stamps.

USPS and collectors call the rolls that fit conveniently into stamp holders “coils.” The flag series is presented in coils at the request of stamp collectors who asked for a series that average Americans would use instead of just collect.

“These are like a stamp version of the state quarters,” said David E. Failor, executive director of USPS’s Stamp Services. “We launched it in June and we’re watching it snowball. We’re getting close to selling out of the first two sets.”

The story of the teddy bear was born in Mississippi during a 1902 hunting trip of President Theodore Roosevelt after he refused to shoot a bear. By 1932 there were less than 12 bears in this state. Today, this endangered species is federally and state protected and the numbers have increased to 100-120, with 30-40 of them in the six southernmost counties.

“It’s exciting that they’re putting the bear on the Mississippi stamp,” said Brad Young, black bear program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks.

The state flag depicted on the same stamp has been Mississippi’s banner since 1894. Because the canton corner has the Confederate Battle Flag, the state flag has created controversy in modern times. In 2001, Mississippians voted whether to choose a new one and voted to keep it.

The day of issue ceremony hasn’t been announced for the June set of Flags of Our Nation, but USPS says it will likely be in Washington, D.C. USPS encourages each of the 10 states and territories to hold ceremonies.

The third Mississippi-related stamp, to be issued in July, is of the 160-year-old Biloxi Lighthouse. After Hurricane Katrina the white tower in the U.S. 90 median became a survival icon for the Mississippi Coast and now graces state license tags.

In the USPS Lighthouses of the Gulf series, the Biloxi tower joins four other historic Gulf of Mexico lighthouses. A date has yet to be set for issue ceremony but USPS says it will take place in Biloxi.


Leave a Reply