The United States Postal Service seems to understand — in a way that the Michigan Law Review doesn’t (see here) — that gender balance is important. In choosing “Civil Rights Pioneers” to honor in its commemorative stamp series above, the USPS highlighted women’s and men’s contributions. That’s true even though some of the women are far less “famous” than their male counterparts. Would it be so difficult for the Michigan Law Review to look for gender balance in book reviewers, too? Ditto the Columbia Business School in choosing speakers for panels at (see here) or William & Mary when inviting speakers to a Symposium (see here)? I don’t believe in quotas of any kind, but I do believe that inclusivity requires effort, outreach, aforethought.
Say what we will about the leadership and functioning of the USPS (a new rate hike coming in May!), the USPS chose 12 fine leaders to honor:
Top row of stamps:
Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)
Throughout her long life as a writer, activist, and lecturer, she was a powerful advocate for racial justice and women’s rights in America and abroad.
Mary White Ovington (1865-1951)
This journalist and social worker believed passionately in racial equality and was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
J. R. Clifford (1848-1933)
He was the first black attorney licensed in West Virginia; in two landmark cases before his state’s Supreme Court, he attacked racial discrimination in education.
Joel Elias Spingarn (1875-1939)
Because coverage of blacks in the media tended to be negative, he endowed the prestigious Spingarn Medal, awarded annually since 1915, to highlight black achievement.
Oswald Garrison Villard (1872-1949)
He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and wrote the”Call”leading to its formation.
Daisy Gatson Bates (1914-1999)
She mentored nine black students who enrolled at all-white Central High School in Little Rock, AR, in 1957; the students used her home as an organizational hub.
Bottom row of stamps:
Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950)
This lawyer and educator was a main architect of the civil rights movement. He believed in using laws to better the lives of underprivileged citizens.
Walter White (1893-1955)
Blue eyes and a fair complexion enabled this leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to make daring undercover investigations.
Medgar Evers (1925-1963)
He served with distinction as an official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Mississippi until his assassination in 1963.
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)
She was a Mississippi sharecropper who fought for black voting rights and spoke for many when she said,”I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Ella Baker (1903-1986)
Her lifetime of activism made her a skillful organizer. She encouraged women and young people to assume positions of leadership in the civil rights movement.
Ruby Hurley (1909-1980)
As a courageous and capable official with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), she did difficult, dangerous work in the South.
These biographical details come from the official USPS announcement here.
Michigan Law Review, let’s see how you do next year.