The Toni Morrison Society was founded May 28, 1993, at the annual meeting of the American Literature Association in Baltimore, Maryland. At the invitation of Carolyn Denard, then an Associate Professor of English at Georgia State University, twenty-six scholars and supporters of Morrison's work met in Baltimore to establish the Toni Morrison Society as an official member of the coalition of American author societies that comprise the American Literature Association. With its founding, the Toni Morrison Society became the 41st author society of the Association and the fourth dedicated to an African American author.
Five months after the founding of the Society, Toni Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature. With the increased interest in Morrison's works after she won the Nobel Prize, the Society quickly grew from a small body of devoted Morrison scholars in the United States to an international literary society of more than 600 members, whose home countries include Japan, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, France, England, Germany, China, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia. The Advisory Board is made up of leading individuals in the academic, art, business, and lay communities who support and wish to enhance the mission of the Society. In 1995, the Society was incorporated and chartered in the state of Georgia. In 1997, the Society became a registered, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
The Society publishes a semiannual newsletter, Wordwork, and an annual Morrison Bibliography. The Society also sponsors two annual panels at the American Literature Association Meeting, Morrison Birthday celebrations and symposia in February, and a series of Biennial Conferences held in locations that have significance in Toni Morrison's life. The First Biennial Conference ("Toni Morrison and the American South") was held in Atlanta, Georgia, the first home of the Toni Morrison Society and home state of Morrison's father who migrated from Cartersville, Georgia, to Lorain, Ohio, in the early 1900s. The Second Biennial ("Toni Morrison and the Meanings of Home") was held in Lorain, Ohio, where Morrison was born and raised and attended public school before leaving for Howard University in 1949. The Third Biennial Conference ("Toni Morrison and the Politics of Learning") was held at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where Morrison finished her undergraduate work in 1953 and taught from 1958 to 1960. During the Third Biennial Conference, the Toni Morrison Society also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Society and the 10th Anniversary of Toni Morrison winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Fourth Biennial Conference ("Toni Morrison and Sites of Memory") was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, and at Northern Kentucky University. The conference celebrated important sites of slavery and freedom in Morrison's novels and featured the Cincinnati premiere of the opera, Margaret Garner, libretto by Toni Morrison and music composed by Richard Danielpour. The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Toni Morrison Society ("Toni Morrison and Modernism") was held in Charleston, South Carolina in July 2008 at the College of Charleston and focused on diasporic notions of modernism in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the ban on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
In September of 2002, the Society launched its first national service initiative with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Conceived in two parts, the "Language Matters" Service Initiative focuses on secondary school teachers and on young readers. Beginning at Cardozo High School in Washington, D.C., the Society sponsored a series of year-long workshops with teachers to supplement their strategies for teaching Morrison's novels to high school students. The Young Readers' Circle, launched in 2003 will be a national effort to improve critical reading literacy among youth ages 9-13. In the summer of 2005, the Language Matters Initiative, with a second grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, sponsored a two-week-long workshop for high school teachers at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky.
As of July 2008, the Toni Morrison Society began a new era with its partnership with Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where the Society established its new institutional home. Lewisburg, Pennsylvania is located not far from the fictional Lincoln's Heaven in Morrison's novel Song of Solomon. The Society ended its partnership with Bucknell in January 2010 and re-established its home office in Atlanta, Georgia.
In August 2012, the Toni Morrison Society moved its home office to Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, eight miles from Toni Morrison's hometown of Lorain. The Society's office is located in the Oberlin College Library in the Mudd Center on Oberlin's campus. At Oberlin, the Society will launch its Toni Morrison Society Lecture Series and engage the Oberlin College Community in its many educational and community outreach programs.
Of the nearly fifty author societies that now make up the American Literature Association, the Toni Morrison Society, in a short time, has assumed a preeminent place in the academy. Its extensive membership, its public and scholarly programming, and its ability to attract major grants and corporate funding have allowed it to move forward on national and international stages in supporting the teaching, reading, and critical examination of Toni Morrison's works.
Toni Morrison Society
P.O. Box 54346
Atlanta, Georgia 30308