The U.S. Postal Service released a stamp Tuesday to commemorate Maya Angelou’s life and work. First lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ambassador Andrew Young and The Root co-founder Henry Louis Gates Jr. (who appeared via video) introduced the “forever” stamp to the mailing community. Attendees and the public were encouraged to share news about the dedication and the ceremony with the hashtag #MayaForever.
The forever stamp has a photo of Angelou on the right side, and on the left it reads, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
Winfrey said how Angelou would be thrilled about the honor. “She’d get a big kick out of this moment,” Winfrey said in a Postal Service press statement. “Being honored and commemorated by the Postal Service with her own stamp, for the big, bold, bodacious life she dared to live, in a way that dazzled and gave meaning to those of us who knew her and many who didn’t.”
Young echoed Winfrey’s sentiments and referenced Angelou’s beautiful life journey in a statement. “Phenomenal Maya,” said Young. “Rising still from Stamps, Ark., and in our hearts to a ‘forever’ stamp. We’re singing your song forever, Maya.”
However, according to a Washington Post report, the quote that is featured on the stamp may not have been authored by Angelou.
Joan Walsh Anglund, an 89-year-old woman who writes children’s books, told the Post that she came up with the quote.
Anglund showed the Washington Post an earlier iteration of the quote, from Anglund’s book of poems that was published in 1967. The only difference between the quote that appears in Anglund’s 1967 book and the one that appears on the stamp is that the bird is referred to as “he” in Anglund’s quote and “it” on the stamp.
Mark Saunders, a Postal Service spokesman, confessed that he had never heard that Anglund was the originator of the quote and explained that the quote is widely associated with Angelou and is widely believed to have been written by the iconic poet and author.
“The Postal Service used [Angelou’s] widely recognized quote to help build an immediate connection between her image and her 1969 nationally recognized autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Saunders’ statement said.
“Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou’s] many other works,” Saunders continued.
Apparently, Anglund didn’t know that the quote had been publicly attributed to Angelou for many years. According to the Washington Post report, Anglund suspects that Angelou came across the quote and articulated it again at some point during her public career, at which point the quote stuck to her.
“But I think it easily happens sometimes that people hear something, and it’s kind of going into your subconscious and you don’t realize it,” Anglund said.
Anglund said that while she loves her “own private thinking” for coming up with the quote, she also loves Angelou’s work and she hopes the stamp is successful.
Read more at the Washington Post.