PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) – Nobel laureate Toni Morrison is now immortalized forever on a postage stamp honoring the prolific author, editor, scholar and mentor, which was unveiled Tuesday morning in a tribute at Princeton University, where He had taught for almost two decades.
Guest speakers, some with whom Morrison had a close personal relationship, included former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.
The months-long chain of events began with a recording of Morrison’s voice in the auditorium reciting an excerpt from his 1992 novel “Jazz” on Harlem: “Nobody says it’s beautiful out here; Doesn’t say it’s easy. What it is is crucial, and if you pay attention to street plans, the city can’t hurt you.
Afterwards, an all-black acapella group sang the popular hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, which became known as the Black national anthem.
The dedication paid tribute to Morrison, who died in 2019 at age 88, and was hosted by Michael Caden, a longtime Princeton lecturer who co-taught with Morrison, and former He served as president of the Lewis Center for the Arts.
Cadden introduced Pritha Mehra, Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice President of the United States Postal Service, who said the Postal Service is proud to commemorate Morrison, the first Black woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
“Our new seal will be seen by millions of people, and will always remind us of the power of their words and the ideas they brought to the world,” Mehra said.
Photographer Deborah Feingold, whose portrait of Morrison was taken for the January 19, 1998 cover of Time magazine appears on the stamp, also spoke at the event.
Morrison’s son, Ford Harrison, and his family were also in attendance Tuesday.
Ruha Benjamin, a professor of African American studies, said, “Anyone who was lucky enough to meet (Morrison) knows that she was as captivating as she was on the page.” Hope this stamp brings a smile to their face, that they love the idea of helping us connect through writing once again,” she said.
“Tony may no longer be with us, but we know his words will challenge our conscience and call us to greater empathy,” Benjamin said.
Winfrey admired her late friend Morrison, who started her own book club in 1996 with Morrison’s novel “Song of Solomon” in mind that same year. “Over the years, I selected four more Toni Morrison books to read as a community than any other author,” she said in a pre-recorded video on Tuesday.
Winfrey has recalled that when Morrison made her first appearance on “The Oprah Show”, she talked about raising her boys as a single mother and left many viewers speechless. “I shared with her that, ‘Ms. Morrison, sometimes your books are challenging and difficult to read for some people.’ And she said, ‘Well imagine how difficult it is to write them'” Winfrey said.
“But difficult or not, what she was able to do through her words[is]bring people from across the country and the world together in an entirely new experience,” Winfrey continued.
In addition to this month’s events, an exhibition exploring Morrison’s creative process will be held at the university library until June 4. Drawn from her archives, the exhibition features more than 100 pieces, some of which have never been seen — including manuscripts, correspondence she wrote while working on her acclaimed 1987 novel “Baywatch” with other black women, photographs and hand-written notes. Worked with the created maps. The exhibit featured some of the current drafts of “Song of Solomon” as well as various unfinished projects.
Later this month, there will be a three-day symposium featuring the keynote address by author Edwij Danticat; In April, Grammy-winning singer Cecil McLaurin will perform at Solvent.
Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber stressed that Morrison’s legacy will continue to be an inspiration to the university, its community, and most importantly, to black artists and artists of color.
“She was a writer of rare talent, of brilliant originality and of truly historical importance,” Eisgruber said.
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