Langston Hughes’ 100th birthday celebrated on stamp

The U.S. Postal Service has recognized the Langston Hughes centennial by issuing a commemorative postage stamp. Part of the Black Heritage series, the 34-cent stamp features Hughes in a 1946 photograph taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

“It’s special, because stamps elevate people,” said Ray Rickman, a book collector and Rhode Island’s deputy secretary of state.

“People will pick up the stamp and say, `Who is he?’ Millions of people will think of Hughes on his 100th birthday.”

Ramona Bass, whose husband, George Houston Bass, was literary executor of Hughes’s estate until Bass’s death in 1990, said that when she sees Hughes in the photo on the stamp, “I can hear him laughing.”

“As George noted, Mr. Hughes was widely known for his laughter, which irked George because he would say, `This is not a laughing matter.’

“He realized Mr. Hughes sometimes laughed to keep from crying. It was part of his shield to the world.”