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Benchmarking a notable career
Princeton NJ — At a Feb. 17 celebration of Toni Morrison’s birthday in Chancellor Green, the Nobel laureate and Princeton professor learned that she will be honored by a new community outreach initiative, the Bench by the Road project.
The inaugural bench presented to Toni Morrison by the Toni Morrison Society, at a celebration of her birthday in Chancellor Green. (photo by John Jameson)
Launched by the Toni Morrison Society, the project will involve placing 10 signature benches, each commemorating sites important in African-American history and in Morrison’s acclaimed novels, around the country. Suggested locations include Harlem’s Fifth Avenue where the 1917 Silent Parade was held; the site of Emmett Till’s death in Mississippi; train station sites in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, where thousands began their journey in the Great Migration; and an all-black town in Oklahoma.
Maryemma Graham, president of the Toni Morrison Society and a University of Kansas faculty member, presented the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities with the inaugural bench at the celebration on the evening before her 75th birthday. Van-Go Mobile Arts Inc., a Lawrence, Kan., arts-based social service agency for youth in crisis, was commissioned to design the initial bench. Two young artists, Melanie Bolden and Kali Detherage, working with Van-Go instructor Cathy Ledeker, painted the bench that took six weeks to complete.
The society plans to ask corporations to sponsor additional benches. Each will have a plaque describing the commemoration, the donor’s name, the society’s name and the date. The Toni Morrison Society is a member of the Coalition of American Author Societies that make up the American Literature Association.