Shirley Chisholm Post Office, Brooklyn, New York
Standing in nearly the center of Brooklyn is a non-descript building with a rich history. The building, which houses the post office servicing the Bedford-Stuyvesant area, honors the late Shirley Chisholm—a pioneer in civil rights and a political trailblazer.
On January 30, the Postal Service® issued the 41st stamp of the Black Heritage® series honoring the legendary American singer and actress Lena Horne almost four years to the day after the issuance of the Shirley Chisholm stamp, which was the 37th stamp of the series.
The interesting connection? Both women have firm roots planted in Bedford-Stuyvesant. With this stamp release, the Shirley Chisholm Post Office™ contains the history of two legendary groundbreakers in the neighborhood that boasts as their birthplace.
The similarities between these two women stretch far and wide beyond their birthplace: both were partially raised by grandparents; both were champions and activists of civil rights; both achieved great success despite the challenges they faced with discrimination; and now, both have been honored with stamps.
Shirley Chisholm was born in 1924 — just seven years after Horne. This might leave us wondering: could Horne have crossed paths with the famed congresswoman
Horne initially didn’t stay long in Brooklyn. At five years old, she moved to Georgia with her mother — a traveling actress. At 12 years old however, Horne was back in New York. After years of travel and switching schools, she dropped out at the age of 16 and began professional life as a dancer at Harlem’s Cotton Club. Developing roots as a nightclub performer, this was the beginning of nearly 70-years of a successful and industrious career in music, dance, theatre and film.
The music and film industry was not always easy for Horne, who had to constantly fight racial discrimination and typecasting. In 1941, when Horne moved to Hollywood, she stood her ground upon signing with MGM, adding a stipulation that she would never be asked to take stereotypical roles. Her path towards civil rights activism had begun. Horne joined the movements of the 1960s. She performed at rallies in the South, supported the work of the National Council for Negro Women, and participated in the 1963 March on Washington.
With parallel determination, Chisholm was busy making her own political history. In 1968, she ran for Congress. Chisholm campaigned in her very own Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with a sound truck that announced, “Ladies and gentlemen … this is fighting Shirley Chisholm!” Not one to settle for any less, Chisholm ran for president in 1972, becoming the first African American and only the second woman to seek the nomination of a major political party.
They were two iconic trailblazers, working tirelessly to widen the doors of opportunities for generations of women and minorities, in two different social spheres. Could these two women have influenced each other? They both stood up for their beliefs, both faced discrimination in their respective fields and each rose to create waves of change — it’s indeed possible to imagine them in the lobby at their local Post Office talking about more than just the weather.
Horne was 88 when Stuyvesant Post Office changed its name to honor the late Chisholm. Now, with the new stamp, the two icons will be reconnected once again in Bedford-Stuyvesant. As the Shirley Chisholm Post Office sells the Lena Horne stamp, their fighting spirits will stay with us forever.
The Black Heritage series Lena Horne stamp is available at many Post Office locations and at The Postal Store®. Where you’ll also find framed art and First-Day-of-Issue keepsakes honoring Lena Horne for online purchase.
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USPS Contributor: Amy Bolger, New York