The Papers of Toni Morrison Come to Princeton

Princeton University is pleased to announce that the Papers of Toni Morrison, celebrated American author and Nobel Laureate, have found their permanent home in the Princeton University Library. President Christopher L. Eisgruber made the announcement on Friday, October 17, in Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium, during 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,” said Princeton President Eisgruber. “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.”

To mark this important announcement, the Library is mounting an exhibit of selected manuscripts, corrected proofs, and first editions of Toni Morrison’s novels, which will be on view in Firestone Library’s Eighteenth-Century Window, near the lobby, on October 18–19 (Saturday-Sunday), 9:00 AM–5:00 PM; then October 20–November 24 during regular exhibition hours: 9:00–5:00 (Monday-Friday) and 12:00–5:00 (Saturday-Sunday). Morrison’s papers will be among the most important collections in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, which has extensive holdings of modern literary and publishing archives. In the next year, priority will be given to the arrangement, description, cataloging, preservation, and selective digitization of the papers, in order to make them available for research consultation.

Among Toni Morrison’s many literary awards and honors over the past five decades are the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon (1977), and Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Beloved (1988), which the New York Times described as “the best work of American fiction of the last 25 years.” Morrison gave the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities (1996), established by the National Endowment for the Humanities. International honors include Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1993) and Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (2010). When she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993), the jury noted that the author, “in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” On 29 May 2012, President Barak Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award.

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in 1931 and acquired her love of books, reading, and storytelling in her native city of Lorain, Ohio. She was educated at Howard University (B.A., 1953) and Cornell University (M.A. in American Literature, 1955). Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University from 1989 until her retirement in 2006. “Here at Princeton,” she noted in an interview in the Paris Review (1993), “they really do value undergraduates, which is nice because a lot of universities value only the graduate school or the professional research schools. I love Princeton’s notion. I would have loved that for my own children.” At Princeton, Morrison created and developed the Princeton Atelier (1994), bringing together undergraduates in inter¬disciplinary collaborations with acclaimed creative artists and performers, such as Gabriel García Márquez, Yo Yo Ma, Peter Sellars, and the American Ballet Theatre. Before joining the Princeton faculty, Morrison held the Albert Schweitzer Chair at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Previously, she was a senior editor at Random House, editing works of such authors as Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, Gayl Jones, and Muhammad Ali. Morrison also taught at Howard University, Yale University, Bard College, Rutgers University, and other schools.

The Papers of Toni Morrison contain approximately 180 linear feet of research materials that document the author’s life, work, and writing methods. 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 the tragic fire in 1993 at the author’s home in Rockland County, New York. Most important are manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and related files pertaining to Morrison’s novels on the African American experience: 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). The working materials provide additional evidence of the author’s approach to the physical act of writing.

Also included are similar materials for the author’s play Dreaming Emmett, children’s books, short fiction, song lyrics, an opera libretto, lectures, and non-fiction writing, as well as extensive literary and professional correspondence, fan mail, diaries and appointment books, photographs, audiobooks, videotapes, juvenilia, memorabilia, course materials, annotated student papers, academic office files, and press clippings. Complementing the papers are printed editions of Morrison’s published works and translations into more than twenty languages. Additional manuscripts and papers will be added over time, beginning with the manuscript of Morrison’s forthcoming novel.

For more information about the Papers of Toni Morrison, which will not be available until cataloging and selective digitization are done, please email Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at For questions about the author, please email her Administrative Assistant, Rene Boatman, at

Morrison for BLOG Timothy Greenfield-Saunders
Toni Morris. Photograph
by Timothy Greenfield-Saunders

Bluest Eye for BLOG
Toni Morrison’s early draft
of The Bluest Eye