By Jalen Brown
The US Postal Service is honoring the late author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison with her own Forever stamp.
“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,” Pritha Mehra, USPS chief information officer and executive vice president, said in a statement.
Morrison, who died in 2019 at 88, explored Black American life in her work with a signature imagination and lyricism. She penned numerous novels over her decades-long career, including “The Bluest Eye,” “Song of Solomon” and the Pulitzer-Prize winning “Beloved.” In 1993, she won the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first African American woman to receive the honor.
“The Postal Service strives to honor extraordinary and enduring contributions to American society, and Morrison certainly meets that high standard,” USPS said in a statement. “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 was unveiled on Tuesday in a ceremony at Princeton University, where Morrison taught for nearly two decades. It was designed by USPS art director Ethel Kessler and features a portrait of Morrison taken in 1997 for a Time magazine cover, according to a news release from Princeton.
Deborah Feingold, who took the photograph, recalled Morrison being gracious and accommodating during the 1997 photoshoot.
“For even the most seasoned subjects, this process can be exhausting. But Toni remained focused and present,” she said at Tuesday’s event. “Her expression for every frame was one of kindness.”
Tuesday’s ceremony was one of several events that Princeton is hosting this year around Morrison. The recently opened exhibition “Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory” examines the celebrated author’s creative process, while a symposium later this month will bring together writers, scholars and artists to consider her work and its impact on American culture.
Oprah Winfrey, who starred in the film adaptation of “Beloved” in 1998, also spoke at the ceremony via a pre-recorded video message. In her remarks, Winfrey noted that she selected four of Morrison’s novels for Oprah’s Book Club — 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,” Winfrey said.
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, who graduated from Princeton in 1985, honored Morrison’s legacy in a letter read at the ceremony. The couple described the author as one of 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 Obamas wrote in their letter. “She helped generations of Black Americans reimagine what was possible.”
In 2012, former President Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.