Former President Barack Obama, Former First Lady Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey among those to commemorate Morrison
The U.S. Postal Service has commemorated Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison with a Forever stamp to celebrate her work’s influence and achievements.
The dedication of the Toni Morrison Forever Stamp honoring her achievements took place on the Princeton University campus at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall on March 7.
“As a teacher she helped her students develop their narrative voices and hone the craft of writing. As a colleague she was generous with her time and her wisdom,” said Christopher L. Eisgruber, president of Princeton University. “She was an outstanding scholar who recognized the value of interdisciplinary collaborations and artistic work to the academic enterprise.”
He noted that Morrison was a mentor for generations of students, and a role model who inspired artists of color to pursue their creative aspirations.
“And of course, she was a writer of rare genius, brilliant originality, and genuinely historic importance. Throughout her life she was a transformative presence, who inspired those around her, and Princeton continues to reflect the remarkable effects of her legacy,” Eisgruber said.
Morrison joined the Princeton faculty in 1989 as the Robert F. Goheen Professor in Humanities.
In 1994, she founded the Princeton Atelier, a program that brings renowned artists and performers from a wide range of disciplines to campus to collaborate with students and scholars.
Princeton University later named the former West College building after Morrison in 2017, which is now called Morrison Hall.
U.S. Postal Service Art Director Ethel Kessler designed the Forever stamp that was unveiled in Richardson Auditorium using a photo taken by Photographer Deborah Feingold.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, the stamp is being issued as a forever stamp and is equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.
“Toni Morrison’s impact on literature and reading is immeasurable. She had one of the most unique and original voices. She filled the world with prose that touched millions of readers worldwide,” said Carla Hayden, who serves as the 14th Librarian of Congress.
Hayden, who is the first woman and first African American to lead the national library, shared that when working in Chicago and in the Baltimore library she can remember patrons eagerly awaiting her new books and there always was a waiting line and a waiting list to check Morrison’s latest work.
“Through her novels, children’s books and essays, she communicated the Black experience on a canvas writ large (written clearly) for audiences who knew it firsthand and as well for those who learned perhaps for the first time about the stinging and horrific aftermath of treating fellow human beings as less than equal,” she said.
Morrison, who died in 2019 at the age of 88, earned the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel Beloved, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by Former President Barack Obama, and in 1993 became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
“Toni told fundamental truths about our country and the human condition. But she did not just reflect what was true, she helped generations of Black Americans reimagine what was possible,” Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote in a letter read by Princeton University Professor Ruha Benjamin.
“Anyone who was lucky enough to meet her knows that she was just as captivating in person as she was on the page,” the Obamas added.
Morrison is known for her work that includes novels: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. Her works examine the Black experience.
“We hope that this new postage stamp would make her smile, that she would love the idea of helping us connect through writing once again,” the Obamas wrote. “Toni may no longer be with us, but we know that her words will endure, challenging our conscience and calling us to greater empathy.”
Through a video message American talk show host Oprah Winfrey said Morrison “served as a catalyst for generations of leaders over the years to understand the power of reading and words.”
“It was over 20 years ago that I had a desire to start a book club. I knew what I wanted to do is create, where people could gather and open our minds to explore great books,” Winfrey said. “And over the years, I selected four of Toni Morrison’s books to read as a community, more than any other author.”
Winfrey recalled being so surprised when women in Brazil, women in India, women from Asian, Mexico and all around the world, as well as the United States were telling them how much they saw themselves as Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye.
“I will forever be grateful for her work and know that we will always have Toni Morrison in our lives because we will always have her words and now, we have this commemorative stamp,” Winfrey said. “So, thank you everyone for being there today to honor her and her magnificent life.”
The unveiling of the stamp is one of the ways Toni Morrison is being celebrated and honored for her cultural influence and achievements.
There are exhibitions at Princeton University’s Firestone Library: Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory at Milberg Gallery through June 4 and Princeton University Art Museum’s Art at Bainbridge gallery in downtown Princeton: Cycle of Creativity: Alison Saar and the Toni Morrison Papers through July 9 that explore her creative process and her work’s influence.