Toni Morrison papers to reside at Princeton

Toni Morrison

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 today by Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber to a packed audience in Richardson Auditorium, addressing attendees of the conference "Coming Back: Reconnecting Princeton's Black Alumni." Eisgruber made the announcement after a tribute to Morrison's legacy at Princeton by trustee Ruth Simmons and before Morrison's on-stage interview with Claudia Brodsky, professor of comparative literature.

Eisgruber said: "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. 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."

Watch the video "Gifts" about Morrison's legacy at Princeton, shown after the announcement of the University's acquisition of Morrison's papers during the "Coming Back" conference. (Video by Louis Massiah/Scribe Video Center)

In 1993, Morrison, the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities Emeritus, became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Among her many honors are the 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. International honors include the Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1993 and the Ordre National de la Légion d'honneur in 2010. 

Morrison came to Princeton in 1989 and was a member of the 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."

At Commencement in 2013, Morrison was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the University. 

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.

Morrison's Papers

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. Included in the collection and the exhibit in Firestone Library Oct. open 18-Nov. 24 are drafts of "The Bluest Eye." (Photo by Don Skemer, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections)

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, housed in Firestone Library, with its renowned collection of major literary and publishing archives. 

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. Of greatest importance are 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 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 18th-Century Window of the Main Gallery of Firestone Library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 18 and 19 during the weekend of the "Coming Back" conference. The viewing hours for Oct. 20-Nov. 24 will be 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.