Sharing Black history with stamps

Exhibit is on display through Feb. 28 at Our Lady of Lourdes

Visitors to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona Beach pore over the exhibit of stamps.
PHOTOS BY DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

For more than 30 years, Eretta Morris has collected over 500 postal stamps on African Americans, their achievements and history.

Her collection is on display this month at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 1401 N. Halifax Drive, Daytona Beach. The theme is “Stamping Through African-American History.’’

The exhibit kicked off on Feb. 16. Morris making a presentation about her collection. It will be on display at the church through Feb. 28. Visitors can view it Monday through Friday from noon until 4 p.m. Appointments must be made to view on Sunday.

“This is my passion, my love and my way of giving back to community. I am encouraging young people to look into doing this,’’ Morris told the Daytona Times.

From baseball to Baldwin

The stamp collection, from the U.S. Postal Service, includes themes such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Negro League Baseball, Civil Rights. It includes figures such as Malcolm X; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; Bill Pickett; Rosa Parks; Booker T. Washington; Gregory Hines; Marvin Gaye, Bessie Coleman, Hattie McDaniel; Ida B. Wells, Jackie Robinson, President Barack Obama and James Baldwin.

“This is a way of introducing our history to the world. A lot of people don’t know about these stamps and our history. We have over 454 African Americans on stamps and 44 on Forever stamps,” Morris said.

“I love history. I love to read it, but a lot of people don’t. It is boring to them. Also, you can’t find a lot of our history in textbooks. Through the stamps, I am to teach our story and our history.

A church project

Eretta Morris has been collecting stamps since her college years.

The display is also a part of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church’s African American ministry. Morris is the church’s director of African American Ministry.

“Our pastor, Father Phil Egitto, thought the stamps would be good to display for Black History Month. He wants African American programs at the church,” Morris said. “We want to reach out to the community and bring in Catholics not attending church as well as non-Catholics. Many Catholic churches aren’t Afro-centric.’’

A fun hobby

Morris said collecting stamps can be a fun and good hobby.

“My grandson is in first grade and he is collecting dinosaur stamps. He is having fun. I’ll pass my collection on to him. People interested need to know it is very satisfying,” Morris related.

“A stamp tells the history of the individual on it and the story of the stamp. I enjoy the art, which also attracts me to this. It’s better to start with what interests you. You can find anything in the United States on stamps – whether balloons, birds, etc.”

Assessing their value

Stamps also discussed the value of the stamps.

Morris expressed, “This is a hobby. It’s a dying hobby. Some stamps are worth a lot of money. The older ones hold more value. The “Inverted Jenny,” which shows the plane flying upside down is worth $1 million. It was a postal system error.

“Stamps can be valuable, but people really collect for historical value. It helps me maintain history, tells stories and preserver contributions of Blacks throughout history.”

Ask for them

Stamps are also rare. The older they get, it’s harder to find and more expensive.

“The older they get, the less likely you’ll find. The old ones you often have to go to a dealer. Also, with African American stamps you must demand the post office have that stamp available because they don’t always do, Morris added.

She also promotes joining a stamp club. Morris a member of two – the East Central Florida Stamp Club and Ebony Society of Philatelist, which is an International Black Stamp Club.

She also is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc

How she started

Morris became interested in stamps through a college roommate and a journal.

“My college roommate and friend was of German descent. Her grandparents passed their stamp collection to her. She was in awe of her culture. That motivated me to step outside the box. I love antiques and I am a historian,” Morris explained.

“One day, while looking at some antiques I found a journal that belonged to a Black woman. It’s told of her and her husband’s trip to Paris. The journal had their story and some stamps. I bought the woman’s journal. She was a stamp collector. I decided to start my collection,” recalled Morris.

Retired educator

Morris had her first stamps exhibit three years ago at St. Johns College in St. Augustine.

“I was putting my collection in shoeboxes. Once I started doing presentations, I put them in albums and plastic, etc.,’’ she noted.

Morris is a retired educator and guidance counselor. She spent 12 years with Volusia County Schools as a guidance counselor. She was also a teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Annapolis, Maryland. Morris taught history, geography, world history and African American studies at the middle school and elementary level.

She has a bachelor’s degree in history from Alverno College, a master’s in history from John Hopkins University, and a master’s in social sciences from Bowie State University.

For more information, call 386-677-9557 or 386-255-0433.

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