Toni Morrison Papers Will Go to Princeton University

Toni Morrison. Princeton, Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
Author Toni Morrison. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

The papers of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison are now part of the permanent library collections of Princeton University, where the renowned author served on the faculty for 17 years.

The announcement was made by Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber at the conference “Coming Back: Reconnecting Princeton’s Black Alumni.”

“Toni Morrison’s place among the giants of American literature is firmly entrenched, and I am overjoyed that we are adding her papers to the Princeton University Library’s collections,” Eisgruber told conference attendees. “This extraordinary resource will provide scholars and students with unprecedented insights into Professor Morrison’s remarkable life and her magnificent, influential literary works. We at Princeton are fortunate that Professor Morrison brought her brilliant talents as a writer and teacher to our campus 25 years ago, and we are deeply honored to house her papers and to help preserve her inspiring legacy.”

In 1993, Morrison became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. She also won a National Book Critics Circle Award for the novel “Song of Solomon” in 1977 and a Pulitzer Prize for “Beloved” in 1988. She received the National Humanities Medal in 2000 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Morrison came to Princeton in 1989 and was a member of Princeton University’s creative writing program until she retired in 2006. In 1994, she founded the Princeton Atelier, bringing together undergraduate students in interdisciplinary collaborations with acclaimed artists and performers.

At a reading of her 10th novel, “Home,” in Richardson Auditorium two years ago, Morrison told the audience that “teaching is the second best thing to writing for me.”

Before joining the Princeton faculty, Morrison held the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at the State University of New York-Albany. Previously she was a senior editor at Random House for 20 years. She also has taught at Howard University, Yale University, Bard College and Rutgers University. She was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from Princeton University in 2013.

The papers of Toni Morrison contain about 180 linear feet of research materials documenting the author’s life, work and writing methods, according to Don Skemer, curator of manuscripts in the department of rare books and special collections in the Princeton University Library. The papers will be among the most important holdings of the manuscripts division, which is housed in Firestone Library.

The papers have been gathered from many locations over time, beginning with manuscripts and other original materials that the library’s preservation office recovered and conserved after a fire in 1993 at Morrison’s home in Grandview, New York. The collection includes manuscripts, drafts and proofs of Morrison’s novels: “The Bluest Eye” (1970), “Sula” (1973), “Song of Solomon” (1977), “Tar Baby” (1981), “Beloved” (1987), “Jazz” (1992), “Paradise” (1997), “Love” (2003), “A Mercy” (2008) and “Home” (2012).

Also included are materials for Morrison’s children’s literature, lyrics, lectures, nonfiction writing, a play, correspondence, diaries, photographs, course materials, videotapes and more. Complementing the papers are printed editions of all of Morrison’s publications and translated work in more than 20 languages. Additional manuscripts and papers will be added over time, beginning with the manuscript of Morrison’s forthcoming novel, which is expected to be published in the spring.

Over the next year, archivists will focus on the arrangement, description, cataloging, preservation and selective digitization of the papers to make them available for research. An exhibit of some of Morrison’s papers will be on display in the  main gallery of Firestone Library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. between Oct. 20-Nov. 24.