Canada Post’s 2021 Black History month issues – Amber Valley

Canada Post’s 2021 Black History month issues – Amber Valley

Canada Post’s 2021 Black History month honours two black communities who carved out lives in Canada, Amber Valley, Alberta and Willow Grove, New Brunswick. I started drafting a single article but became engrossed in the histories of these communities and realised they deserved separate recognition. The first of two posts starts with Amber Valley.

2021 Black History Month – Amber Valley Alberta

Amber Valley is located 170 kilometres north of Edmonton. If you are familiar with northern Alberta, then you understand how cold and remote the Athabasca region is. The people who settled Amber Valley took a difficult and at times dangerous trek from Alabama and Oklahoma, determined to create a better life in Canada, far away, hopefully, from the Jim Crow south.

The influx was sparked by a Canadian Immigration Dept, campaign to bring new settlers to the prairie provinces with promises of free land. Over a 2 year span, approx. 1,000 Black-Americans responded to the ads and settled in Pine Creek, Alberta (later renamed Amber Valley), Junkins, Alberta (renamed Wildwood), Keystone, Alberta (renamed Breton) and Campsie and Maidstone, Saskatchewan. A group of 100, headed for Amber Valley in 1909. They were joining Reverend Harrison (Henry) Sneed, who made the first trip to the Athabasca valley to survey the area in 1905.

Frustrated by their disfranchisement and fearful of escalating white violence, black Oklahomans proved receptive to the appeals of Canadian officials and looked to Canada as their new hope for a promised land of equality and opportunity. Between 1905 and 1912, over 1,000
African Americans made the trek to Canada and most of them came from Oklahoma. Many of these Canadian immigrants had been migrants to Oklahoma, who had hoped for an all-black state but instead encountered white violence and Jim Crowism. They believed they had been abandoned by America and hoped to lead freer lives in Canada, where they were told prosperity awaited. Although part of the larger white migration, African Americans regarded their move to Canada in very different ways from white Americans.

“We Heard Canada Was a Free Country”: African American Migration in the Great Plains, 1890-1911 (

FDC for Amber Valley was founded around 1910 - 2021 Black History month

First Day Cover celebrating Amber Valley, Alberta, settled by black immigrants from Oklahoma USA in 1909.  Designed by Lara Minja of Lime Design Inc

Racism in Canada – “campaign of diplomatic racism”

Various records offer up different numbers of people who followed Rev Sneed.  Most indicate approx. 100 people made up the first trip. More followed, but by 1911, a group of 200 blacks, heading to Amber Valley encountered racist issues at the border. It’s easy to gloss over the success of the community and pretend they were welcome to the North, but the Black Americans succeeded because they persevered, not because a welcome mat was rolled out.

Old racist tropes were resurrected to prevent blacks from settling Canada, ranging from the hysteria claiming black communities were dangerous to white homes, to black homesteads would drive the price of land down. The Federal government was petitioned to halt all non-white immigration to the country.

Once black settlers started arriving in larger numbers, however, they did rely upon indirect methods to discourage these “undesirables” from undertaking the journey up north. While simultaneously advertised as hospitable and inviting to the American whites, the climate of the Canadian west was presented as much too cold and severe for any blacks. Strict economic and physical standards aimed at restricting newcomers, but most blacks passed the tests. Finally, agents hired by the Canadian government were sent Oklahoma to persuade these potential immigrants that Albertan soil was poor and that they would, in any case, have difficulty crossing the border. These informal policies were effective, and by 1912, black immigration to Alberta had all but ended.

Land of Opportunity – The Great Migration – Black Communities in Alberta (

Actions by the Canadian government killed off the movement north. By 1911, white communities were pressuring the government to act.  On August 12, 1911, Order-in-Council 1324 was drafted to stop all black immigration for up to a year.

“the serious menace to the future welfare of a large portion of western Canada, by reason of the alarming influx of Negro settlers.”

Minister of the Interior Frank Oliver MP Edmonton in letter to PM Laurier

Although Order 1324 failed to become official policy, other methods were instituted. 1324 failed, not because of a sense of anti-racist sentiment on behalf of the Canadian cabinet, but because the Laurier government was facing an election year and they didn’t want to stir up any controversies or start a political row with the US.

Instead, Canada began what has been described as a “campaign of diplomatic racism.” A polite way of saying Canada instituted racist rules but did it in a way that didn’t draw attention. If there’s one thing Canada excels at, it’s being polite and hiding our racism behind a cloak of respectability. Medical exams were made harder to pass for blacks, doctors were bribed to fail applicants, head taxes of up to $50 per person instituted, certificates proving suitability as farmers refused were among the tactics used. The government finally resorted to sending officials to Oklahoma to discourage blacks directly. Only then did black immigration fall off.

Photos of black citizens from Amber Valley

Searching through various archives rewarded me with many photos of the citizens of Amber Valley. Too many to post here, but a wonderful look at a flourishing black community.

Photo of black couple living in Amber Valley Alberta around 1920

Mr. and Mrs. Spriggs of Begg, Oklahoma. Photo taken at Amber Valley, Alberta. Image courtesy Archives Society of Alberta

Photo of children Jesse Bowen and Frank Jamerson_1920 in front of a car

Jesse Bowen and Frank Jamerson 1920. Archives society of Alberta

The photos from Archives society of Alberta provide a slice of life in rural Alberta and highlight a much-ignored part of Canadian history – the contributions blacks made in all walks of life. Black History Month offers a small correction into this unbalanced view of our history, but we still have a long way to go to appreciate who helped build Canada.

Young black farmer with his horse in Amber Valley 1920s

Young farmer with horse. Amber Valley around 1920s Archives society of Alberta

1920s photograph of a woman milking a cow

Unknown woman milking a cow in 1920.s Archives society of Alberta

Like many rural communities, people gradually drifted away to larger cities for better economic opportunities. Farming is arduous work; farming in a northern community can be harsh and unforgiving. Over the decades, Amber Valley’s population declined until it was nothing more but a memory. The school closed in 1950s and the post office in 1968.  As the remaining population began to age and die, their original homesteads were either sold, demolished, or left to disintegrate into the soil.

Some of the descendants of Amber Valley’s immigrants were Violet King Henry, Canada’s first black, female attorney, Cheryl Foggo, award winning author and playwright, and Oliver Bowen, engineer behind Calgary’s first light rail. The Oklahomans who settled in Alberta left a hell of a legacy.

Amber Valley stamp for 2021 Black History Month

Postage stamp showing settlers above the town of Amber Valley, Alberta

Amber Valley Stamp – Black History Month 2021 Canada

Lime Design’s Lara Minja created both stamps for Black History Month.  The First Day Cover bears a cancelation from Athabasca, AB (where Amber Valley is).

Postal Cancel for Black History Month 2021 showing a wagon wheel design

Athabasca 2021 postal cancel

If you find these stamps & their histories interesting, check out Lime Design’s previous Black History Month stamps. Designer Lara Minja has created 4 previous series and they are equally outstanding. Minja is talented and imaginative in her designs. If you collect Canadian, history or Black History stamps, these should be in your collection.

I’ll post about the second stamp in this series later and pop a link here when it’s done. In the Meantime, check out other upcoming issues for Canada

Awesome 2021 Canadian stamps announced


11 Countries – 2021 stamps

2021 stamps for 11 countries are now listed and 3 almost ready to load. That didn’t take long. If there is a country you’d like to see listed, drop a line in the comments and I’ll see if I can bump it up on the list.

A | Åland 2021 | Austria | Österreichische Post 2021 | Australia 2021

B | Belarus | Belpochta 2021

C | Canada 2021

E | Estonia | Eesti 2021

F | Faroe Islands

M | Macau 2021

N | Norway – 2021

U | USA 2021 | United Kingdom 2021

Peeking at USA stamps for 2021 – UPDATED details

Peeking at USA stamps for 2021 – UPDATED details

USA stamps for 2021 will see some old friends return along with a couple of fun new issues. The ever-popular Black History Month, Love and Chinese New Year stamps will be back of course. I doubt a US postal offering would be complete without them. Although not shown in the USPS press release, there will also be Christmas and Diwali stamps available. The US Postal Service is also serving up a few new stamps in 2021 that piqued my interest. Among them are coffee and confusion.

Old favourites return

Jan 14 will see the return of the LOVE stamps. Hard to believe the first LOVE stamp was sold in 1973. Since then, it has gradually turned into a perennial stamp. Check out the USPS online store to pre-order them Love Stamp |

Black Heritage Month will celebrate the late, very great playwright August Wilson.

Wilson, a master storyteller, honed his craft by walking the streets of his Hill District neighborhood as a young man, observing, and immersing himself in Black street life, listening to old-timers talk about their daily lives. It inspired what would become his plays’ vibrant characters and lyrical language. August Wilson Archive | University of Pittsburgh Library System

This 44th stamp in the series is already available for pre-ordering August Wilson Stamp | It will be released Jan 28th, 2021. The first stamp featuring Black History Month was the 1978 Harriet Tubman stamp. If you would like to research more on African Americans on stamps, start with the USPS page African American Subjects on United States Postage Stamps – Who We Are – USPS

One of the USPS’ popular series has been the Lighthouses of America stamps.  The series began 30 years ago, April 26, 1990. This year the following lighthouses will be shown: Thomas Point Shoal, MD; Montauk Point, NY; Harbor of Refuge, DE; Navesink, NJ; and Erie Harbor Pierhead, PA. I imagine collectors should start looking for them in April.

The US Lighthouse Society has a delightful page on collecting lighthouse stamps. If you haven’t checked them out, here’s the link Collecting Lighthouse Stamps by Richard T. Richardson | US Lighthouse Society ( If you are interested in starting a lighthouse stamp specialty collection, this would be a good starting point.

The flower offerings, Garden Beauties, will include a pink dogwood; a rose-pink and white tulip; ornamental onion; a pink and white Asiatic lily; a magenta dahlia; a yellow and pink American lotus; a pink moth orchid; a pink and white sacred lotus; an orange and yellow tulip; and a yellow moth orchid.  (From the press release Hello, 2021 – U.S. Postal Service Announces Upcoming Stamps – Newsroom –

Coffee and a secret

The USPS Espresso Drink stamps are, as expected, of interest to me. It’s not just the caffeine content that caught my eye, it’s the warm design that I appreciate. The stamps are a combo of rich colours and great typography. Four stamps will be sold – caffe latte, espresso, caffe mocha and cappuccino. Too bad they weren’t scratch and sniff. The stamps are nice little works of art so kudos to Greg Breeding who designed the stamps using the artwork of Terry Allen.

Mystery Message stamps are intriguing.  “The new Mystery Message stamp will put your sleuthing skills to the test. Featuring bright colors and interesting shapes, the stamp design is a visual riddle spelling out a message. Each colorful square contains a letter in an interesting pattern. The patterns, though seemingly random, were carefully placed so that when put all together, the message reads.” Ah yes, a dose of frustration offered up with the daily mail and morning espresso. What could go wrong?

USA stamps for 2021 – January


USPS 2021 stamps - LOVE

Love – part of a long running series


Continuing series that started in 1973

One stamp

Stamp designer: Baily Sullivan

Release Date: Jan. 14, 2021

USPS stamp showing Castillo de San Marcos fortifications in Florida

Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos

Oldest masonry fortification in USA

Stamp designer: Greg Breeding | Artist: Dan Cosgrove

Release date: Jan. 24, 2021

USPS stamp showing the brush rabbit

Little Brush Rabbit

Brush Rabbit

One stamp with “Additional Ounce”

Stamp designer: Ethel Kessler | Artist: Dugald Stermer (1936-2011)

Release date: Jan. 24, 2021


USPS stamps for 2021 showcasing barns

USPS stamps for 2021 showcasing barns

Barn Post Card Stamps depicting 4 seasons

Four stamps in series with “POSTCARD” printed on them

Stamp designer: Ashley Walton | Artist: Kim Johnson

Release date: Jan. 24, 2021


USPS Black History Month Stamp - August Wilson

August Wilson

August Wilson (1945 – 2005) – Black Heritage Month

Renowned playwright

Stamp designer: Ethel Kessler | Artist: Tim O’Brien

Release date: Jan. 28, 2021

USA stamps for 2021 – February

USPS 2021 stamps - Year of the Ox

USPS 2021 stamps – Year of the Ox

USPS Souvenir sheet of Lunar New Year stamp

Souvenir sheet

Lunar New Year -Year of the Ox

One stamp + full souvenir sheet

Stamp designer:  Antonio Alcalá 

Artist: Camille Chew

Release date: Feb. 2, 2021

USPS 2021 stamp - Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) nuclear physicist

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) “one of the most influential nuclear physicists of the 20th century”

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)

Nuclear physicist

One stamp

Stamp designer: Ethel Kessler | Original artist: Kam Mak

Release date: February 11, 2021



USPS Stamps 2021 – Spring & Fall

2021 stamps for spring -Garden Beauty - USA stamps for 2021

Garden Beauty stamps for Spring 2021

Details TBA 

Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII

Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII

Details TBA

An intriguin offering for 2021 stamps - Mystery Message

So, what’s the message? We’ll have to wait.

Details TBA
USPS 2021 stamp - Colorado Hairstreak butterfly

Colorado Hairstreak

Details TBA
USPS celebrates the Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

Details TBA
Espresso Drinks for 2021 USPS stamps

Now we’re talking – Espresso Drinks

Details TBA
A fun set of stamps - Backyard Games

Backyard games – badminton, bocce, cornhole, croquet, flying disc, horseshoes, tetherball and pick-up baseball

Details TBA
2021 stamps for spring -Garden Beauty

Garden Beauty stamps for Spring 2021

Details TBA
USPS stamp with Happy Birthday scene

Happy Birthday

Details TBA
Series of stamps highlighting Heritage Breeds for 2021

2021 stamps showing off heritage breeds

Details TBA
Message Monsters stamps showing little colourful monsters

Message Monsters

Details TBA
The always popular lighthouse series adds 4 more stamps to the series

The always popular lighthouse series adds 4 more stamps to the series

Details TBA
Missouri Statehood stamps

Missouri Statehood

Details TBA
Colourful stamps showing off Western Wear

Western Wear

Details TBA
2021 US stamp Raven Story

Raven Story will honour a 2021 stamp

Details TBA


USPS announced 5 late additions for the 2021 year.  The topics cover everything from science to sports and arts. It’s a bit irritating that no release dates are available yet. When they arrive, I’ll reorganise the page to reflect this.

USPS stamps 2021 - picture of Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra (1925-2015)

Baseball all-star

1 stamp

Artist: Charles Chaisson

Lettering: Michael Doret

Designer: Antonio Alcalá

No release date


USPS stamp for 2021 featuring picture of Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)
Sci-fi and fantasy novelistOne stampLiterary Arts series – stamp #33

The stamp features a portrait of Le Guin based on a 2006 photograph. The background shows a scene from her landmark 1969 novel “The Left Hand of Darkness,” in which an envoy from Earth named Genly Ai escapes from a prison camp across the wintry planet of Gethen with Estraven, a disgraced Gethenian politician.

Designer: Antonio Alcalá based on artwork by Donato Giancola

No release date


USPS stamp for 2021 showing panel of 4 stamps showing Emilio Sanchez prints

Emilio Sanchez

Emilio Sanchez (1921-1999)

Four stamps

Based on Sanchez lithographs & prints:

  • “Los Toldos” (1973),
  • “Ty’s Place” (1976),
  • “En el Souk” (1972)
  • Untitled (Ventanita entreabierta) (1981)

Designer: Antonio Alcalá

No release date


USPS 2021 sheet of 10 stamps showing Sun Science

Sun Science

Sun Science

Ten stamps in series

The striking colors do not represent the actual colors of the sun as perceived by human eyesight. Instead, each image is colorized by NASA according to different wavelengths that reveal or highlight specific features of the sun’s activity.

Designer: Antonio Alcalá

No release date


5 USPS stamps depicting different tap dancers

Celebrating tap dancing

Tap Dance

Four stamps in series

Designer: Ethel Kessler designed the stamps | Photographs by Matthew Murphy

No release date


Mallard duck on a prestamped card

Mallard on a pre-stamped card


One stamped card

Designer: Ethel Kessler from artwork by Dugald Stermer (1936-2011)

No release date


Check out the upcoming Canadian stamps for 2021

Awesome 2021 Canadian stamps announced