Celebrating American Literary Icon Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison—born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18th, 1931—is universally recognized as one of the greatest American writers in modern history. Her novel Beloved, first published in 1987, was an international sensation and in 2016 was voted the best work of American fiction of the previous 25 years; it is not controversial to suggest that nothing has been published since to challenge its crown. In 1993, Morrison became the first—and as of now, the only—Black American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her work has influenced, changed, and inspired both readers—like Kamala Harris and Barack Obama—and writers—from Ocean Vuong to Keah Brown to Rich Benjamin.

After Morrison’s death in 2019, the literary world overflowed with tributes of all kinds—visual, literary, and physical—only fitting for a writer whose work has touched so many. And hey, starting next month, she’ll even be on a stamp. Today (and every day) we celebrate her life and legacy.

As part of an initiative by the Bench by the Road Committee to establish on-going relationships with the communities who have placed Benches, a delegation of Toni Morrison Society members attended a Bench Rededication Ceremony in Martinique on June 26th to commemorate Aimé Césaire’s 110th Birthday. The Society placed a commemorative wreath on the Bench and presented to the mayor of Fort-de-France a commemorative plaque and photo collage of the Bench Placement Ceremony that the Society held for Aimé Césaire’s 100th Birthday in June 2013.

Dr. Carolyn Denard, Board Chair gave remarks at the Rededication Ceremony on behalf of the Society and later participated in a commemorative program for Aimé Césaire in his hometown of Bass Pointe, Martinique. In a meeting with the Mayor of Fort-de-France and his representatives at City Hall, the mayor presented gifts and a Key to the City to the Board Chair to acknowledge the Society’s partnership with Fort-de France in honoring Aimé Césaire with a Bench by the Road.

During the visit, sponsored by the Martinique Tourism Authority, the Society delegation made plans with the Tourist Authority to host a symposium on Toni Morrison and Aimé Césaire that will be held next June in Martinique. The Symposium entitled, “The Vision, Artistry, and Legacy of Toni Morrison and Aimé Césaire” will be a four-day event (June 22-June 27, 2024) of Morrison and Césaire scholars who will gather to explore Martinique’s history; Morrison’s connections to the Caribbean Diaspora; and the shared vision, artistry, and legacy of Aimé Césaire and Toni Morrison. Registration and the schedule of events for the Morrison-Césaire Symposium next June will be posted soon.