Students and faculty at George Washington High School were the first to see the newly revealed Black Heritage stamp featuring dancer, actor and director Gregory Hines. Hines, who died at the age of 57 in 2003, is the 42nd inductee in the Black Heritage Series, which honors African-American history.
Born on Feb. 14, 1946, Hines began dancing semi-professionally at 5 years old. He displayed his tap dancing skills on Broadway, winning Tony Awards for the musicals “Eubie!” “Comin’ Uptown” and “Sophisticated Ladies.” He also appeared in several films including “The Cotton Club,” and “White Nights,” in which Hines danced alongside legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, as well as “Tap,” a story about three generations of tap dancers featuring Sammy Davis Jr. and Sevion Glover.
In addition, Hines was known for his smooth vocals in songs such as “This Is What I Believe” and “You Need Somebody.” His duet with Luther Vandross, “There’s Nothing Better Than Love,” became a No. 1 R&B hit.
“His on stage creations were so imaginative, they are forever etched into our minds,” the U.S. Postal Service Greater Indiana District Manager Todd Hawkins said. “We could still see Gregory Hines hunched over, his hands by his knees, his body curved and in constant motion as he glides from one end of the stage to another.”
The stamp features a photograph of Hines taken by Jack Mitchell in 1988, and features a smiling Hines, dressed in a red blazer with one foot pointed upward to show off his tap shoe. Christi Johnson-Kennedy, the first Black postmaster in Indianapolis, attended the unveiling.
Students from Crispus Attucks High School and Lawrence North High School honored Hines through dance, songs and spoken word performances during the unveiling ceremony.
“The celebration of the arts we’ve seen this morning, through song and through dance, is symbolic of the impact that Gregory Hines had on arts in America,” Aleesia Johnson, interim superintendent of IPS, said. “I’m a firm believer that the arts are a powerful vehicle to showcase the human spirit and for our students to demonstrate the many strengths they bring to our schools.”
The Black Heritage Series is the longest running stamp series, with the first stamp featuring Harriet Tubman appearing in 1978. Since then, the series has featured George Washington Carver, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Madam C. J. Walker.
“I commend the United States Postal Service for honoring the contributions that African-Americans have made to our history though the heritage stamp collection,” Congressman André Carson said in a letter read by constituent services liaison Jessica Garcia. “These influential and history-making men and women should never be forgotten.”
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.