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Remembering Toni Morrison

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Posted on August 6, 2019 by By Dr. Craig Stutman.

Courtesy: the Toni Morrison Society The Bench by the Road Project is a memorial history and community outreach initiative of the Toni Morrison Society.

Dr. Craig Stutman, a Delaware Valley University faculty member who serves as chair of the Toni Morrison Society’s Bench by the Road Project, contributed this message in memory of Toni Morrison. He was also quoted in, "Toni Morrison, renowned writer, Nobel laureate and Princeton University professor, dies at 88," from The Philadelphia Inquirer. 


As chair of the Toni Morrison Society’s Bench by the Road Project, I had the honor of working with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison to tell stories from African-American history.

The name "Bench by the Road" is taken from Morrison's remarks in a 1989 interview with World Magazine where she spoke of the absences of historical markers that help remember the lives of Africans who were enslaved and of how her fifth novel, "Beloved," served this symbolic role:

"There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road. There is not even a tree scored, an initial that I can visit or you can visit in Charleston or Savannah or New York or Providence or better still on the banks of the Mississippi. And because such a place doesn't exist . . . the book had to" (Toni Morrison, speaking with The World, 1989).

Toni Morrison was a genius. She was a Nobel Prize-winning author; an editor for Random House who edited the works of Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali; an educator; an advocate for African American public history and memorialization who supported the Society’s Bench by the Road Project, and perhaps the most brilliant commentator on American race relations and American history. 

Toni Morrison’s support allowed the Bench by the Road Project to commemorate important stories from history with physical markers. We have placed benches throughout the country and internationally so that people can sit and reflect on the events and individuals these benches help to remember. 

To learn more about the Bench by the Road Project, please visit tonimorrisonsociety.org.

About the Author
Dr. Craig Stutman is a Delaware Valley University associate professor of history and public policy and chair of the Toni Morrison Society’s Bench by the Road Project.