Lima church puts its stamp on Black History Month

LIMA — Their likenesses have traversed the nation, thanks to the United States Postal Service, and on Sunday, St. Paul AME Church honored those influential, historic figures in America’s Black history who have been immortalized on our nation’s postage stamps.

Every Sunday throughout Black History Month, the church is opening its doors on West Spring Street to allow the community to view its display chronicling the various Black politicians, activists, artists, musicians and athletes who have been featured on postage.

The display event, which St. Paul Church has held for more than a decade, features a different theme each year. Cheryl Brown, whose parents, former Lima school teachers Charles and Corrine Brown, are on the display committee, said that the inspiration for this year’s theme of Black history on postage stamps came quite naturally.

“This year, our inspiration came from one of our church members who works at the post office,” she said. “She brought us a book that has postage stamps in it and that had African Americans in it. That led to the idea of [the theme of] African Americans honored on the U.S. postage stamp. That’s how it started.”

As the display’s organizing committee began the work of assembling all the names of those featured on stamps over the years, one name that carries a great deal of significance for the church came to its attention.

“The bishop, our founder of the AME Church, [Rt. Rev.] Richard Allen, was featured on a stamp,” Brown said. “That was really an inspiration and kicked off everything we did.”

Some names will be familiar to many, including Harriet Tubman, the 19th-century abolitionist whom Rev. Stephanie Ransom-Upshaw referenced in her Sunday sermon at the church, likening her to a prominent biblical figure.

“My sermon today was on Harriet Tubman, Black Moses,” she said. “I tied Moses in the Bible and their journey [to the promised land] to the Underground Railroad. She was the first African-American woman to be on a postage stamp.”

The stamps are organized in groups, such as musicians, athletes and artists, as well as Black heritage figures, such as Tubman. The hope, Brown said, is that this will give visitors the opportunity to get to know other prominent Black figures with whom they may not be familiar.

“Those are things we want to talk about, not just the familiar ones like Harriet Tubman,” she said. “There’s sports. There’s Jesse Owens from Ohio. There’s Marvin Gaye, so there’s musicians. There are sculptors, activists, educators, all of that.”

The display will be open each Sunday in February at the church, 1103 W. Spring St., after the service, running from approximately 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.