Author Toni Morrison honored with postage stamp
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- Published on March 17, 2023
- Last Updated May 15, 2023
- In Culture
Although this is the first stamp the author has been featured on in the U.S., she’s been the subject of two stamps in two different countries.
In addition to being a Nobel laureate, winning a Pulitzer Prize, being honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and more, author Toni Morrison is being honored once more, this time with a postage stamp.
The acclaimed author, who died at 88 years old in 2019, is the face of the Forever stamp from the United States Postal Service. The stamp features a well-known portrait of Morrison, shot by photographer Deborah Feingold. Morrison stands out against a bright yellow background in all-black and her signature gray locs. Her mouth curves into a slight smile, accented by red lipstick.
“It was a privilege to photograph Ms. Morrison, an amazing author who contributed so much to the world through her works,” Feingold said at the stamp’s unveiling. “However, it is an absolute honor to know that the same photograph capturing a moment in time is now the subject of a Forever stamp. I am delighted that my photograph was used as a source to design the stamp and to participate in today’s unveiling and celebration.”
The stamp was revealed on March 7 during a ceremony at Princeton University, where Morrison was a faculty member from 1989 to 2006. During her time at the prestigious university, she was the Robert F. Goheen professor in the humanities department and part of Princeton’s creative writing program. The ceremony was attended by her son, Ford Morrison, as well as other family members, reports The 19th. Chris Eisgruber, president of Princeton University; Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress; Gene Jarrett, faculty dean at Princeton; Ruha Benjamin, professor of African American Studies at Princeton; and Pritha Mehra, USPS chief information officer and executive vice president were also in attendance.
“One of the goals of our stamp program is to raise awareness and celebrate the people who represent the very best of our nation,” Mehra said during the ceremony. “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.”
A video tribute by Oprah Winfrey played during the ceremony, and a letter of tribute from former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama was read by Benjamin. Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama in 2012.
“Toni told fundamental truths about our country and the human condition,” said the letter. “But she didn’t just reflect what was true. She helped generations of Black Americans reimagine what was possible. That’s why we return to her stories again and again, finding new meaning each time.”
Toni Morrison’s works have been cemented in the literary canon. Her novels such as “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” and “Sula” have been acclaimed for the ways in which they discuss and depict the Black American experience, specifically those of Black women. The rich, poetic nature of her prose combined with the subject matter of her work has been liberating to many and intimidating to some.
Morrison’s work has been banned and continues to be removed from schools, libraries and even prisons. The 19th reports that in 1998, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice banned Morrison’s novel “Paradise” from prisons due to material “that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve a breakdown of prisons through inmate disruption such as strikes or riots.” In the current social and political climate where various literary works are being removed from schools, “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved” remain among the most challenged books in schools.
Morrison joins a roster of nearly 50 Black women who have appeared on U.S. postage stamps, including Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks. Although this is Morrison’s first time on a postage stamp in the U.S., she was honored with a stamp in Sweden after she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. The Republic of Palau in Oceania also featured Morrison on a stamp in 2000 for its Visionaries of the 20th Century series.