Few U.S. children’s picture books written before 1962 depicted Black children with anything resembling humanity, often employing racist caricatures if they featured Black children at all. The United States Postal Service (USPS) honors one illustrated book that rejected that tradition, “The Snowy Day,” with its own stamp line.
USPS unveiled four new stamps inspired by the book in an announcement yesterday (September 5). The collection will be part of USPS’ ongoing “Forever” series of specialty stamps for first-class postage. Virginia-based artist Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps using images from Ezra Jack Keats’ book.
“The Snowy Day” follows Peter, a young African-American child who wakes up one morning to find his Brooklyn neighborhood covered in fresh snow. “The Snowy Day” focuses on Peter’s amazement and small pleasures in the new winter wonderland. Per the book’s own plot, the four stamps feature Peter gathering a snowball, looking at his snowy footprints, sliding down a hill and making a snow angel.
On the book’s 50th anniversary in 2012, NPR reported that Keats, who was White, drew inspiration from a 1940 Life Magazine photo essay of a Black Georgia boy’s transition from joy to pain following a blood test. Keats wished to depict children of color, like the many in his native Brooklyn, in a literary form that rarely acknowledged them. “The Snowy Day” was among the first full-color children’s picture books to focus on a Black protagonist, and Keats’ work earned the 1963 Caldecott Medal for children’s literature. NPR also noted that the book received criticism during the Civil Rights Movement for not explicitly acknowledging or addressing Peter’s race.
The USPS announcement says that the stamps will be available beginning on October 4, the same day as the launch event at the Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch. Prospective customers can preorder a 20-stamp booklet at Store.USPS.com.