CLEVELAND — Charles Waddell Chesnutt will be immortalized on a stamp in the popular Black Heritage commemorative stamp series issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
He is considered the first black writer to receive major acclaim. He made an important breakthrough when his short story, The Goophered Grapevine, appeared in the August 1887, issue of Atlantic Monthly.
The stamp was dedicated Jan. 31 at the Cleveland Public Library.
Chesnutt will become the 31st person inducted into the series.
“Charles Chesnutt was an American original, a gifted writer and social activist whose candid discussions of race in America helped set the stage for the successful civil rights movement of the 20th century,” said Delores Killette, vice president and consumer advocate for the Postal Service.
The Goophered Grapevine and other stories were collected in Chesnutt’s book, The Conjure Woman. The stories in this book were poised between comedy and tragedy.
Today, Chesnutt’s writings are admired for their probing psychological exploration and for their progressive thinking on questions of race.
He once called racism “a barrier to the moral progress of the American people.”
Chesnutt was of mixed racial descent and provided insight into various perspectives along America’s color line. With light skin and blue eyes, Chesnutt could have disregarded his black roots, but he detested such actions.
He believed that people of color who tried to “pass” or represent themselves as white would never achieve political or social equality.
His work in political and civic affairs and his stance against racial discrimination earned him in 1928 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal, which recognizes distinguished merit and achievement among blacks.
Chesnutt was born in Cleveland June 20, 1858, and grew up in Fayetteville, N.C. He died in his hometown in 1932.
The Postal Service began issuing its popular Black Heritage stamp series in 1978, with a stamp honoring Harriet Tubman. Chesnutt joins a long list of legendary black leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, Ella Fitzgerald and Jackie Robinson.
The Charles W. Chesnutt stamp sheet is available for purchase in post offices, at www.usps.com and by calling 800-STAMP-24.
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