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RECALLING MILESTONES IN AMERICAN HISTORY

"To Form a More Perfect Union" (taking a line from the U.S. Constitution) is the theme of a new set of commemorative stamps to be issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2005.

Featured on these stamps will be major milestones of the civil rights movement recognizing the courage and achievements of the men and women who struggled to bring the vision of the U.S. founding fathers closer to reality.

This was announced by Sylvester Black, vice president for Western Area Operations of the Postal Service, who unveiled the stamps at a special meeting this month.

The milestones illustrated on these stamps are: Executive Order 9981 by President Harry Truman in 1948, Brown v Board of Education, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Lunch Counter Sit-Ins, Freedom Riders, March on Washington 1964, Selma March, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Little Rock Nine.

The stamp art, designed by Ethel Kessler, uses detailed art from actual scenes as a basis. The image used on the selvage is a detail from Delsarte in 2000 -- From Selma to Montgomery.

Here is an advanced look at some of the more poignant designs displayed on the new stamps -- Executive Order 9981 shows President Harry Truman issuing the order mandating full integration in all branches of U.S. armed forces; Brown vs. Board of Education picturing a lithograph of children at play, thus declaring separate education for white and black children is forbidden.

The March on Washington illustrated more than 250,00 people as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, provided broad protection against discrimination. The law also prohibited race denial accommodations at such places as hotels, restaurants and theaters.

The Selma March in the spring of 1965 is highlighted by demonstrators marching on the state capital in Montgomery, Ala. Another stamp design bases its origin on the refusal of Rosa Parks to move to the back of the bus on Dec. 1, 1955 and was arrested. But on Dec. 21, 1965 black passengers were once again permitted to sit anywhere. The stamp called "The Boycott" has a detail from the painting "Walking."

Collectors can see the "To Form a More Perfect Union" stamps by going to the Web site at www.usps.com.

Current U.S. stamps, as well as a free comprehensive catalog may be ordered toll-free by phone at 1-800-STAMP-24. A wide selection of other philatelic items are also available at the Postal Store.