Toni Morrison’s Bench by the Road Project

Toni Morrison, professor emerita at Princeton University and Nobel laureate in literature, stated in a 1989 magazine article, “There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath or wall, or park or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road” to commemorate the suffering of the millions of American slaves.

Inspired by these words, the Toni Morrison Society, now based at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, launched the Bench by the Road project.

This past summer the first bench and a commemorative plaque was placed on Sullivan Island off the South Carolina coast, where about 40 percent of the slaves brought from Africa disembarked in the New World.

This past week another bench was dedicated at North Main and Lorain streets in Oberlin, Ohio. This site was selected because Oberlin was a key station on the Underground Railroad.

The Toni Morrison Society plans a total of 10 benches to be placed in sites across the country.