HARLEM — Hundreds of community members gathered Sunday to watch Nobel and Pulitzer-Prize winning author Toni Morrison dedicate a bench to the Schomburg Center in honor of its role as an archive of black culture.
This was the 20th bench given by Morrison, which were donated to mark not only various locations with connections to slavery, but significant sites of African American history.
Morrison spoke briefly about the significance of the bench marking the unique and vast collection the center, located at 515 Malcolm X Blvd., has detailing the African Diaspora.
“This is worthwhile… The coming together of all these important, memorable items, movements (and) things,” she said.
Morrison, through her eponymous organization, has given benches to historic sites across the country, in Europe and the Caribbean, to memorialize the “tragedy and triumph” of the African Diaspora.
Morrison began the initiative — called the Bench By The Road Project — in 2006. But, she said, the genesis for the project came after writing her 1987 award-winning book, “Beloved,” about a slave who escaped slavery.
She said after writing the book she knew of no significant markers of the country's history of slavery or forgotten moments of African American history.
Anthony Marx, the president the New York Public Library system, said the bench will be placed in the courtyard of the center that's currently under renovation along with a plaque.
Marx also said the bench will have a symbolic role.
“We are gathered here at a moment in history when people seem to be afraid…tragic things happening in this country and across the world,” he said. “And it’s in moments like these, that imports like this shines a light.”