by Rebecca Nuttall
Courier Staff Writer
While sifting through her mail, Joy Maxberry Woodruff was shocked to see a familiar symbol looking back at her. That symbol was the Confederate flag, which is prominently featured in the Mississippi state flag as part of the U.S. Postal Service Flags of the Nation stamp series.
“I’m still in shock, I’m so surprised that there wouldn’t be more sensitivity with our U.S. Postal Service,” Maxberry Woodruff said. “They’ve done such a great job of promoting diversity and goodwill in our country that this was so contrary to their normal mode of operations. I was disappointed and dismayed.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE STAMP
The Mississippi flag featured in the new series of stamps drew criticism recently from members of the North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition and former city Councilwoman Valerie McDonald-Roberts. However, while the NHARC found it offensive, they are also concerned that others are not aware of what they are buying.
“We realize that this is a true depiction of the Mississippi state flag and that the postal service has a tradition of honoring state and territorial flags,” said Donna McNamara, NHARC president. “We should have been forewarned that such a divisive, and in our view, hateful image was on the product we were buying.”
The series of stamps began releasing alphabetically in 2007 with Mississippi being released in 2009. Letters were sent to representatives at the U.S. Postal Service.
“We’re just depicting the state flags in this series. We’re honoring the state flags,” said Roy Betts, manager of community relations. “That is the art, the imagery that is on the state flag. We’re not altering the state flag.”
On April 17, 2001, a state referendum to change the flag was put before Mississippi voters. The proposal would have replaced the Confederate battle flag with a blue canton with 20 stars, but was defeated by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent.
“For many of us this symbol does not evoke a spirit of ‘diversity, unity, pride and values’ as stated by Deputy Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in his dedication speech, but reminds us of a shameful time in our history when African-Americans were beaten, bombed, lynched and terrorized, often with the full support of local officials,” McNamara said. “Today this symbol is still used by many to oppress and intimidate. We will not help to promote those ends by using these stamps on our correspondence.”