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March 07, 2023

U.S. Postal Service issues Forever stamp featuring Toni Morrison

The author taught at Princeton University for 17 years until her retirement in 2006; the college will host a first day of issue ceremony

Toni Morrison is the latest cultural figure to be commemorated with a Forever stamp from the United States Postal Service. The novelist, who died in 2019, will be honored during a first day of issue ceremony at Princeton University on Tuesday, where she taught for 17 years. 

The first-class stamp, priced at 63 cents, was designed by Ethel Kessler and features a photo of Morrison taken by Deborah Feingold in 2000. Morrison, whose critically-acclaimed novels have become staples in 20th century American literature, has remained popular despite book bans and censorship efforts

Morrison is being honored for her cultural influence, commercial success and long-held desire to tell stories that had previously gone untold about the Black experience, according to the United States Postal Service. The ceremony will take place in Alexander Hall at 11 a.m., and is open to the public.

Born into a working-class family in Lorain, Ohio in 1931, Morrison's love of reading brought her to Howard and Cornell universities, where she graduated with degrees in English and American Literature in 1955 and 1958, respectively. In the late 1960s, Morrison became the first Black female editor of fiction at Random House in New York City before she published her debut novel, "The Bluest Eye," in 1970. 

Her third novel "Song of Solomon," earned the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1978, and has faced multiple challenges and bans in schools since its publication. 

Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for "Beloved," one of her most famous works, in 1988. The book, set after the Civil War, follows a family of formerly enslaved people who live in what they believe is a haunted home in Cincinnati. 

The novel, which has been banned or censored in some schools across the country due to its depictions of sex and violence, is regarded as Morrison's most influential novel and was adapted into a 1998 film of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey. 

In 1989, Morrison was named the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities at Princeton, where she remained until her retirement in 2006. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, becoming the first Black woman to receive the cultural honor. 

Princeton dedicated Morrison Hall, a building on the New Jersey campus that houses the university's Department of African American Studies, to the novelist in 2017 due to her influence on the college and American culture. Morrison died on Aug. 5, 2019 at 88 years old due to complications from pneumonia. 

The first day of issue ceremony is one of several ways Princeton is honoring the novelist over the next several months. In January, Princeton University Library opened "Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory," a months-long exhibit examining Morrison's cultural legacy and creative process. 

"There is not a corner of Princeton University, Black creative life, and cultural production that Toni Morrison has not impacted," said Autumn Womack, lead curator on the exhibit. "This initiative, we hope, will begin to bring to the surface new aspects of that wide impact." 

The U.S. Postal Service issues Forever stamps to a handful cultural and political icons each year. In order to qualify, chosen subjects must have died within at least three years prior to their stamp being issued. 

Other figures that will be honored with Forever stamps this year include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ponca chief and Indigenous rights activist Standing Bear. 

The first day of issue ceremony, hosted by the U.S. Postal Service, can be streamed live below.