The Mississippi Statehood commemorative Forever stamp is unveiled at Centennial Plaza.

GULFPORT – Mississippi has taken plenty of licks over the past 200 years, but the state got a stamp of approval Friday from the U.S. Postal Service.

As part of Friday’s South Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a Forever stamp at a first-day-of-issue ceremony.

The Mississippi Statehood Commemorative Forever stamp, the latest addition to the Postal Service’s Statehood series, was unveiled in Centennial Plaza as part of the South Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration.

Mississippi Statehood Commemorative Stamp

The stamp features a close-up of the hands of Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, a blues musician from Bentonia.

“We are thrilled to dedicate the Mississippi Statehood Forever stamp to honor a state that has been very instrumental to American ingenuity and the American spirit,” James P. Cochrane, chief customer and marking officer and executive vice president for the U.S. Postal Service said in a statement. “This stamp represents the music, the mystery, the heart and soul of Mississippi.”

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Gov. Phil Bryant, Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and 2016 Miss Mississippi Laura Lee Lewis also attended the ceremony.

“As the birthplace of America’s music, the state of Mississippi is honored to be recognized by the United States Postal Service with this commemorative stamp on our 200th birthday,” Bryant said in a statement. “We invite the world to join us as we celebrate out unique music, cuisine and culture year long.”

Novelist Jesmyn Ward speaks during the Mississippi Statehood commemorative stamp unveiling at the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration in Gulfport.

DeLisle native and novelist Jesmyn Ward made an effort to channel the state’s influential culture through a spoken word segment she shared during the ceremony.

“I returned to Mississippi because the landscape is beautiful and special, and I am endlessly fascinated by it as I attempt to render it in my writing,” Ward said. Some audience members gently placed their hands on top of their chests as Ward continued: “The way that a Mississippian describes the rain would be very different from the way a San Franciscan would describe the rain.”

A large banner-like version of the stamp was revealed on the plaza stage following an out-of-sync countdown provided by the elementary students sitting with their legs crossed on the grassy lawn.

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ hands are featured on the new state stamp.

Moments later, Holmes left his seat on stage and walked to the mic where he stood with both of his arms extended in the air as the crowd clapped and cheered. He was honored.

“A lot of you probably won’t understand this. But 50 years ago, with the sun out like this, I’d probably be out in a field somewhere.” Holmes said as he strapped his guitar across his body. “It is what it is.”

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Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.

Sereena Henderson managed Mississippi Today’s social media and reported on Mississippi culture from August 2016 until June 2020. She was also a member of the engagement team and curated and delivered the daily newsletter. Sereena, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a graduate of the Ole Miss School of Journalism and New Media.