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Stamp honoring black opera star unveiled in St. Albans

On Friday the U.S. postmaster general traveled to southern Queens for the first time ever to honor the late star with a new stamp."She was one of music's greatest voices," postal head John Potter said during a ceremony at St. Albans' Black Spectrum Theatre at 177th Street and Baisley Boulevard attended by nearly 100 people. "Whenever she walked on stage, she had the ability to touch everyone."In addition to showcasing her contralto voice, Anderson became an early symbol for the civil rights movement when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to grant her permission to perform in 1939 at their Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., because she was black. When first lady Eleanor Roosevelt heard of the snub, she resigned from the group and helped Anderson set up a concert at the Washington Memorial. More than 75,000 people attended, and the event became an inspiration for the movement for racial equality."Anderson wasn't afraid to use her abilities for civil rights either," Potter said. "She never stopped hoping and working for change. When you use this stamp, think of her unprecedented talent in music and her quiet quest for justice."The stamp is the 28th in the post office's Black Heritage series, one of which is issued every year during Black History Month. The latest offering is based on a painting of Anderson and features a purple background and the singer in a crimson dress. It made its national debut last month at Constitution Hall, where she was once banned, and then was brought to St. Albans Friday for a special ceremony.During the event, essay contest winners from St. Albans' Theatre of Dance Movement, Jamaica High School, Woodhaven's Franklin K. Lane High School and Jamaica's Allen Christian School were honored and student ballerinas and step dancers performed. The audience also heard several songs from Ronnita Nicole Miller of Manhattan's Juilliard School, who learned Anderson's signature "Ava Maria" for the show.U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), state Senator Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) also came to honor Anderson."This was a breakthrough against Jim Crowism," Meeks said of the star's Washington Memorial performance and the attention it brought to segregation."Her voice didn't shatter glass," Jamaica Postmaster James Burns said. "It shattered boundaries."Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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