A Black Heritage series stamp honoring the late Gwen Ifill, one of the nation’s most esteemed journalists, was unveiled during a ceremony Feb. 27 at the Main Post Office.
The United States Postal Service in Memphis held the event in partnership with The African-American Postal League United for Success Memphis Chapter (A-PLUS) in celebration of Black History Month. The Ifill stamp is the 43rd in the USPS’s Black Heritage series.
“Gwen Ifill was a remarkable trailblazer who broke through gender and racial barriers,” said Postmaster of Memphis Reginald Capers.
Ifill was among the first African Americans to hold prominent positions in both broadcast and print journalism. She was 61 when she died in 2016 after battling breast cancer.
After graduating from college in 1977, Ifill’s first job as a journalist was at The Boston Herald American. She later worked at The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post and The New York Times, where she was a White House correspondent and covered Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992.
Cheryl Watkins-Parrish, USPS customer relations coordinator, officiated the ceremony. “Gwen was truly a national treasure, and so deserving of today’s honor.”
In 1994, Ifill moved to NBC, where she covered politics in the Washington bureau. Five years later, she joined PBS as senior political correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week,” becoming the first woman and first African American to moderate a major television news-analysis show.
During her career, Ifill covered seven presidential campaigns, and in 2004 she became the first African American female journalist to moderate a vice-presidential debate. She also moderated the 2008 vice-presidential debate, notably stumping Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John Edwards with questions about the state of healthcare for black women.
In 2013, Ifill became part of the first all-female team to anchor a daily national broadcast news show, “PBS NewsHour.”
She is regarded as one of the most respected reporters of all time, and someone who pushed the bar forward for women of color in journalism.
Among Ifill’s honors were the Radio Television Digital News Foundation’s Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award (2006), Harvard’s Shorenstein Center’s Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism (2009) and induction into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame (2012). In 2015, she was awarded the Fourth Estate Award by the National Press Club.
The 2016 John Chancellor Award was awarded to Ifill by the Columbia Journalism School. In 2017, the Washington Press Club Foundation and “PBS NewsHour” created a journalism fellowship named for Ifill. Her alma mater, Simmons University, opened the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities in the fall of 2018.
Now, she’s on a stamp.
A-PLUS member Deener Newberry led the event in prayer and fortunately I, Brianna Alexis Smith, had the pleasure of introducing WHBQ 13 news anchor Mearl Purvis as the event’s keynote speaker.
As a young black journalist, it was truly a remarkable experience. Purvis has been a standard setting journalist for me. Her storytelling and diction is vast and impressive, and to be able to have the honor to share my gratitude towards her was a career high for me, while also commemorating the life and legacy Gwen Ifill established, to make our careers possible.
Purvis said, “I believe, Gwen Ifill had been tapped by God to lead us women who wanted to be in this career into thinking, yes little brown girl you too can do this. She is worthy of our attention and our honor today as we unveil this stamp.
“Memphis, we are one of the last places to unveil this stamp and I think that makes it even more greater because Memphis has always been underrated, yet we always overachieve.”
Closing remarks were made by Memphis A-PLUS Chapter President Pamela Williams.
Ifill joins Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and Jackie Robinson, among others, who have been honored in the Black Heritage series.