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Black Heritage Stamp and Coin Collection
By Maria Herrera

It's Black History Month and to celebrate, the Spady Cultural and Heritage Museum will honor the 2008 Black Heritage stamp — the 31st featuring African-American figures in American history.

On the stamp is novelist and folklorist Charles Waddell Chesnutt, who is considered the first black writer to earn national acclaim.

The museum is wrapping up a four-month exhibit of a private collection of African-American stamps and coins.

The Al Ashley Stamp and Coin Collection traveling exhibit features more than 81 stamps that Ashley, a native of Tuskegee, Ala., has been collecting since 1978.

"I've met a lot of famous African-Americans and a lot of them are on stamps," Ashley said from his home in Tuskegee. "They all inspired me to put together this collection."

The Palm Beach County School Board's office of African and African-American studies, which organized the event, will also honor Delray Beach's first black postmaster.

"It means a lot to me," said Postmaster Phyllis Reed. "I was born and raised here and started my postal career here in 1977."

Reed attended SD Spady Elementary, Carver High School and Atlantic High School when it was being integrated. She said the stamp series is a way to get people interested in African-American figures during Black History Month.

The event Friday is one of several throughout the county in places such as the Urban League, said Debbye Raign, manager of the School Board's office of African-American studies.

"We also have a lot of kids interested in Postal Service careers," Raign said.

Raign said that some children get interested in the most popular public figures, such as Mary McLeod Bethune, George Washington Carver and Jackie Robinson, while others focus on the artistry of stamp making.

But some less-recognized people featured on the stamp series, such as Chesnutt, are seldom talked about as part of the Black History Month curriculum.

"We are able to connect them to history and be able to relate to those people," Raign said.

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