UAlbany pays tribute to Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison clapping

Novelist Toni Morrison applauds at the America Festival at the U.S. embassy in Paris, 2012. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — This year, the University at Albany will celebrate the life and works of novelist Toni Morrison, whose distinctly black voice forever changed American literature and culture, with a series of events.

First, the New York State Writers Institute begins its spring season with a free Tribute to Toni Morrison that’s open to the public on Friday.

They’ll screen “The Pieces I Am,” the 2019 documentary about the novelist, at 7 p.m. January 24 in Page Hall on UAlbany’s downtown campus. Besides Morrison herself, the documentary features interviews with Oprah, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowitz, and more. A panel discussion about her life and legacy will follow the screening.

The landmark novelist and ‘93 Nobel laureate died at 88 in August in New York City, sparking university-wide efforts to lionize Morrison. Other events include:

  • On Morrison’s February 18 birthday, the university unveils a memorial exhibition of her chair, photographs, archival papers, and other mementos at 10:30 a.m. in the Science Library.
  • On May 2, Selected Shorts will perform some of Morrison’s fiction beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center’s Main Theatre.
  • On September 11 and 12, the Writers Institute will honor Morrison and study her work during the third annual Albany Book Festival.

From 1984 to 1989, as the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at UAlbany, she shared offices with the Writers Institute. As faculty, she taught a fiction course, mentored students, and raised consciousness about racial injustice.

As the second writer ever featured by the institute, she addressed a packed Campus Center Ballroom in 1984. Morrison dramatized the story of Emmett Till in “Dreaming Emmett,” a play that premiered at Capital Repertory Theatre in 1986.

She also wrote parts of the acclaimed and bestselling “Beloved” during her time as a professor and received news of her Pulitzer at those shared offices in 1988. That year, Morrison organized “The Birth of Black Cinema,” a three-day symposium on campus that included Spike Lee.

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