Toni Morrison's USPS Forever Stamp was unveiled in a ceremony at Princeton University, where Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas paid tribute to Morrison's legacy.
The U.S. Postal Service is honoring the life and legacy of author Toni Morrison with her own Forever Stamp. Morrison, who died in 2019 at 88, crafted novels exploring the diverse voices of Black Americans. The author of "The Bluest Eye," "Song of Solomon," and the Pulitzer-Prize winning "Beloved," she is also the first African American woman to become a Nobel laureate. "It's a privilege to represent the 650,000 men and women of the Postal Service as we honor Toni Morrison with one more tribute — our new stamp that will be seen by millions and forever remind us of the power of her words and the ideas she brought to the world," said Pritha Mehra, USPS chief information officer, and executive vice president, according to USPS.
In 1988, Morrison was a professor at Princeton University. She taught American literature and creative writing classes and co-founded the Princeton Atelier, which brings professional collaborators from different disciplines to create new work. "The Postal Service strives to honor extraordinary and enduring contributions to American society, and Morrison certainly meets that high standard," USPS said. "In her artfully crafted novels, she explored the diverse voices and multifaceted experiences of African Americans and added a vital African American voice to American literature." The stamp, designed by USPS art director Ethel Kessler features a portrait of Morrison taken in 1997 for a Time magazine cover, as reported by Princeton.
Deborah Feingold, the photographer, remembers Morrison to be very gracious and accommodating. "For even the most seasoned subjects, this process can be exhausting. But Toni remained focused and present," she said during the stamp unveiling at Princeton. "Her expression for every frame was one of kindness." Tuesday's ceremony was one of many events that Princeton will carry out around Morrison this year. The "Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory" exhibition celebrates the author's creativity and a symposium held later this month will bring writers, scholars and artists to examine and study her impact on American culture.
According to CNN, Oprah Winfrey, who starred in the film adaptation of "Beloved" in 1998, spoke at the ceremony in a pre-recorded video tribute. For "Oprah's Book Club," she has selected four of Morrison's novels more than any other author. "Toni Morrison's books are in so many of our homes and abide in our hearts because she served as a catalyst for generations of readers over the years to understand the power of reading and words," she said. Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, a proud alumnus of Princeton from 1985, honored Morrison's legacy in a letter at the ceremony. The duo dubbed the author as one the "world's greatest storytellers." "Toni told fundamental truths about our country and the human condition, but she didn't just reflect what was true," the letter read. "She helped generations of Black Americans reimagine what was possible."
In 2012, former President Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. “The Dancing Mind,” her acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, addressed the need for writers and readers to defend authors’ freedom of expression. In 2016 she received the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard University. She was also awarded the Thomas Jefferson Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts, Social Sciences, or Humanities from the American Philosophical Society, in 2018. However, she will always be remembered for her novels that are “dedicated to dramatizing the complex humanity and art of Black people.”