Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty
Meredith Lepore
Mar 04, 2015 @ 10:31 am

Today the U.S. Postal Service previewed the Dr. Maya Angelou Forever Stamp that will honor the activist, poet, author, and champion of civil rights. The oil portrait image of Angelou on the stamp is by artist Ross Rossin.

Rossin met Angelou in 2013 on her birthday, at a party given by Oprah Winfrey, where he spoke with her about her life and her work's mission.

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"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 said in a statement. "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."

Courtesy U.S. Postal Service

"I wanted to capture her laughter, her cry and the forgiveness and blessings that came from her face,” he said. “It is not only her portrait that is bigger than life. It is she herself who is bigger than life. The portrait is evidence of her magic.”

The stamp features the quote, "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song," from Angelou's acclaimed 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The stamp pane, designed by Ethel Kessler, M.D., quotes a line from the author's 2009 book, Letter to My Daughter: "Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud."

A first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony will be held on April 7 at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., and is open to the public. The stamp is available for preorder here.

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