UNH Office of Multicultural Student Affairs

U.S. Postal Service to Honor UNH for Its Diversity Efforts

Award to be made in conjunction with program on Sojourner Truth

By Lori Gula
UNH News Bureau

February 25, 2002

DURHAM, N.H. -- The University of New Hampshire will be honored Thursday, Feb. 28, by the U.S. Postal Service for its work in support of diversity, tolerance and respect.

The university will receive a framed enlargement of the Langston Hughes postage stamp, which commemorates the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Postal Service's Black Heritage Series. The stamp honoring the writer/poet went into circulation on Feb. 1.

The presentation will be made in conjunction with the performance of "A Woman Ain't I!" a one-woman show by Boston actress Kathryn Woods that tells the story of former slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth. The program celebrates Black History Month (February) and Women's History Month (March), and is sponsored by the UNH Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Durham Postmaster Dennis Kelly will present the enlargement of the stamp prior to Woods' performance. The performance is set for 7 p.m. in the Granite State Room of the MUB. It is free for UNH students with ID and $2 for non-UNH students.

"It is a privilege for the University of New Hampshire to be honored in this way," says UNH President Joan Leitzel. "We have a strong commitment to building a successfully diverse community, and we appreciate this recognition."

Each year, the U.S. Postal Service recognizes diversity efforts across America as part of the release of its Black Heritage Series stamps. This year, the UNH honor will be the first Langston Hughes award made in the state.

"The Postal Service is honored to bring awareness to the nation of these outstanding Americans," New Hampshire District Manager James Adams says.

Hughes is acclaimed for his portrayals of black America from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights era and is regarded as one of the most important writers of the 20th century. He wrote one of his first published poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," in 1920. Although Hughes considered himself a poet first, he also wrote short stories, novels, plays and nonfiction. Hughes' first book, "The Weary Blues," was published in 1926, the same year he received a scholarship to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1929. He died of cancer on May 22, 1967, in Harlem, N.Y.

"Langston Hughes succeeded in capturing all that is 'American' in his poetry," says Henry Pankey, vice president of delivery and retail for the U.S. Postal Service, who dedicated the stamp. "His significant contribution to the world of literature showed the depth of his devotion in calling attention to black culture as a valid source of literary expression."

Following the presentation, Woods, who has acted in Boston for more than 20 years, will use abolitionist Truth's own words to recreate scenes from her life as she journeyed through pre- and post-Civil War America preaching against slavery and for the rights of women.

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