Postal Service Slips Up With Special-Edition Stamp For Maya Angelou

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The U.S. Postal Service has put the late poet Maya Angelou's face and name, together with a choice quotation, on a special edition stamp. Trouble is, that quotation didn't start with her.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The U.S. Postal Service just released its stamp honoring the late poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. There was a big ceremony yesterday.

(APPLAUSE)

BLOCK: Oprah was there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OPRAH WINFREY: And I'm honored to be here, to stand as her daughter, sister, friend at the unveiling of the Maya forever - forever...

(APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: Stamp.

BLOCK: And it will forever have a problem. Emerson College professor Jabari Asim noticed the stamp features a quotation misattributed to Maya Angelou.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

(Reading) A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

Asim remembered writing that quote down a long time ago.

JABARI ASIM: I sent a note to The Washington Post, and I said, you know, my commonplace book cites Joan Walsh Anglund for that particular quote. Am I incorrect, and where did I get this idea?

BLOCK: Well, The Post's Lonnae O'Neal did some digging. She found the quote in a book of poems written in 1967 by Joan Walsh Anglund. And that book, "A Cup Of Sun," came out two years before Maya Angelou's autobiography, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings."

CORNISH: The Postal Service response - had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of her many other works.

BLOCK: And that seems to be where they're leaving the issue, says O'Neal.

LONNAE O'NEAL: And that seems inadequate as a response to a quote from someone who meant this much to this many people and deserves to have her own words on the stamp.

BLOCK: Not to mention the credit that should be paid to the 89-year-old writer Joan Walsh Anglund. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.