Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Author Toni Morrison, whose "bench by the road" sits on Sullivan's Island, has died at 88

"We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Tue, Aug 6, 2019 at 10:18 AM

click to enlarge Toni Morrison's 'bench by the road' on Sullivan's Island sits behind the Fort Moultrie Visitor's Center - FLICKR USER RON COGSWELL
  • Flickr user Ron Cogswell
  • Toni Morrison's 'bench by the road' on Sullivan's Island sits behind the Fort Moultrie Visitor's Center
Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison, best known for seminal works like Beloved and The Bluest Eye has died after a short illness at the age of 88 at New York's Montefiore Medical Center.

Morrison's Beloved was required reading for many, and the famed author had a local connection to the Lowcountry. In 2008 Morrison visited Sullivan's Island to hold a memorial service to commemorate enslaved Africans, their history, and to dedicate a 6-foot-long bench.

The reason for the bench? In a 1989 magazine interview Morrison lamented the lack of acknowledgement of enslaved Africans in American cities, saying, "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."

Sullivan's Island was the first stop in South Carolina for thousands of enslaved Africans brought to North America. The International African American Museum in Charleston will document the lives of enslaved people and the legacies they left in American history and culture.

Morrison's visit to Sullivan's Island was detailed in the New York Times:

"'It’s never too late to honor the dead,' said Ms. Morrison, 77, the author of eight novels, as she sat down on the 6-foot-long, 26-inch-deep black steel bench facing the Intracoastal Waterway. 'It’s never too late to applaud the living who do them honor,' she said. 'This is extremely moving to me.'"
  • Flickr user Ron Cogswell
Morrison got that bench by the road, both here and several other places around the world. On Sullivan's Island, the bench sits overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway behind the Fort Moultrie Visitor's Center at 1214 Middle St., maintained by the National Parks Service.

In a statement from Morrison's publisher, Penguin Random House, Morrison's longtime editor Robert Gottlieb said: "She was a great woman and a great writer, and I don’t know which I will miss more."

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