#MayaForever: USPS Issues Stamp Honoring Angelou

The commemorative stamp misquotes the late author.

The U.S. Post Office on Tuesday issued a limited edition "Forever" stamp to honor the late poet, author and champion of civil rights Maya Angelou, who died last May at age 86. The stamp was unveiled at an event at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., and was attended by an all-star lineup that included First Lady Michelle Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Valerie Jarrett, Oprah Winfrey, poet Nikki Giovanni and others. Angelou's son Guy Johnson and grandson Colin Ashanti Murphy-Johnson also were there.

"They say Easter was Sunday, but we are still having church," said MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, a former student of Angelou's, who served as the master of ceremonies.


The image of Angelou on the stamp comes from a hyper-realistic painting created by the Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin. The stamp also includes the quote, "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

That sounds just like something Angelou would write, and various people, including President Obama when bestowing on the poet the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal in 2013, have attributed it to her. But, as it turns out, children's book author Joan Walsh Anglund originated the quote, the Washington Post reports. Anglund, an admirer of Angelou, told the publication she hopes the stamp is successful.

The snafu, which may or may not be corrected, was far from anyone's mind at the stamp's unveiling, and few people were likely aware of it. Instead, the audience of about 1,700, many of them women, listened rapturously as various luminaries sang Angelou's praise.

"When Henry Louis Gates first called me several months ago to say that there was going to be a Maya 'Forever' stamp, I literally LOL'd. I mean for real. Because I knew that is exactly what Maya would have done," Winfrey said. "It's incredible that this has happened, so thank you United States Postal Service."

The stamp, she added, honors and commemorates the "big, bold, and bodacious life that she dared to live in a way that dazzled and gave meaning to all of us who knew her and millions who didn't."

Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.

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(Photo: 2015 U.S. Postal Service)

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