Seven people stand next to a large poster of a postage stamp featuring Toni Morrison
The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the new Toni Morrison commemorative stamp on March 7 in Richardson Auditorium.
Brett Tomlinson/PAW
After unveiling a new commemorative postage stamp featuring the late author, professor, and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, U.S. Postal Service official Pretha Mehra returned to the podium at Richardson Auditorium and noted how the audience’s eyes remained on Morrison’s bright, smiling gaze. “She really holds the room, doesn’t she?” Mehra said.

About 250 people gathered for the March 7 first day of issue ceremony, held a short walk from Morrison Hall, the former West College, which was renamed in 2017, two years before Morrison’s death. The event featured remarks by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, a letter from former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama ’85, a video tribute from Oprah Winfrey, and a rousing musical finale from members of the Princeton a cappella group Old NasSoul.

Mehra, the chief information officer and executive vice president of the U.S. Postal Service, said that the Morrison stamp “will be seen by millions and forever remind us of the power of her words and the ideas she brought to the world.” President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 paid tribute to Morrison’s contributions to the arts at Princeton, her mentorship of students and aspiring writers, and her literary legacy as “a writer of rare genius, brilliant originality, and genuinely historic importance.”

Hayden, the first woman and first African American to head the Library of Congress, recalled her earlier days as a librarian in Chicago and in Baltimore, where patrons would fill waiting lists to check out Morrison’s latest works. “She filled the world with prose that touched millions of readers worldwide,” Hayden said. “And through her novels, children’s books, and essays, she communicated the Black experience on a canvas writ large — for audiences who knew it first-hand as well as for those who learned, perhaps for the first time, about the stinging and horrific aftermath of treating fellow human beings as less than equal.”

Dean of the Faculty Gene Andrew Jarrett ’97, a former student of Morrison, said that seeing her on a commemorative stamp “attests to how far we’ve come in valuing the diversity of contributions to American life and culture.” The Obamas, in a letter read for the audience by Professor Ruha Benjamin, wrote that Morrison “helped generations of Black Americans reimagine what was possible. That’s why we return to her stories again and again, finding new meaning each time.”

The day’s speakers also included Deborah Feingold, whose Time magazine photo of Morrison was selected to appear on the new stamp.

“On a personal note, I am a woman who has been to the National Postal Museum many times,” Feingold said. “I am also that person who makes you wait in line at your local post office while insisting on being shown every stamp that’s available that day” — a confession that drew applause from the philatelists in the audience.