The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the Dr. Maya Angelou Limited Edition Forever Stamp recently at D.C.’s Warner Theater. The public event honored the late author, poet, actress, and champion of civil rights, as one of the world’s most dynamic voices in 20th-century American literature.

In addition to her family members, including Angelou’s son writer, Guy Johnson, and grandson Colin Johnson, the unveiling brought out first lady Michelle Obama, poet Nikki Giovanni, Ambassador Andrew Young, and television mogul Oprah Winfrey. MSNBC political scientist Melissa HarrisPerry, who once worked as Angelou’s undergraduate assistant, served as the events master of ceremonies. Describing her relationship with Angelou on the eve of her Bill Clinton Inaugural poem delivery as surreal, Harris-Perry said it was Angelou’s demeanor, her graciousness, that impressed her most.

“At 18, I had a front-row seat on history as I watched this extraordinary Black woman step into a space unlike anything else I’d ever seen. It is one thing to be generous to other people who are among your peers, it is another to be generous to your dinky little undergraduate assistant,” Harris-Perry said. “She had an unparalleled generosity that was not tormented by sentimentality. She taught me how to live with integrity and to the extent that I do it is largely because of her lessons and to the extent that I fail at it, I try to remember that she thought it was okay for us to fail.”

Ambassador Andrew Young met Angelou in 1961 while both were serving on the front lines of the civil rights movement. During the invocation, Young described the global community as “Maya’s rainbow children,” saying “When it looked like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God sent a rainbow – Maya. In our weak moments, in our trials and tribulations, and also in our celebrations, may we always recall her laughter and her smile,” Young said. “I applaud the U.S. Postal Service for their decision to honor my beloved friend Maya with a Forever stamp.”

Fellow civil rights icon, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) noted that Angelou loved people and was always to able to see the beauty and grace in others irrespective of race, socioeconomics, gender, or circumstance.

“There are those persons who love the world, just love the world. They love the world and all of humanity, but really don’t like people. Maya, however, was a genuine lover of people,” Lewis said.

The stamp showcases Atlanta-based artist Ross Rossin’s 2013 oil-on-canvas portrait of Angelou. The large hyperrealistic painting is part of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s collection, where it will be on display through Nov. 1.

“I always wanted to paint Maya as she was a voice that inspired millions – not just as an individual, but as a legendary poet and a civil rights icon who transcended generations,” Rossin added. “I was compelled by the challenge to portray her forgiving smile and her aura of unconditional love and understanding that comes across when having a conversation with her.”

Postmaster General of the United States, Megan J. Brennan told the crowd that by any measure, Angelou was a truly great American.

“In so many ways – through her life, her advocacy, her passion for people and justice, and most importantly, through her words, she inspired us. committed her life to elevating our standards of what it means to be human and advanced the understanding of passion and reconciliation,” Brennan said.

Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson, said his mother believed in the evidence of things not seen and sent her prayers up to the very gates of God. Calling her faith was “as solid as the old weathered rock,” Johnson said Angelou stepped out on his word and believed.

“She spoke out in declaring tones for justice and truth, and look at what the little Black girl from Stamps, Arkansas, achieved. She told us that we are more alike than unalike, that Black or White, gay or straight, none should be rejected. That we need to stand tall because we are made in God’s image and we are all humans here and need to be respected,” Johnson said.

More than 80 million Maya Angelou Forever stamps were produced and are available, along with commemorative pins at local post offices or may be ordered online. For more information, visit