Lincoln University will become the second local site of a "Bench by the Road," part of an effort launched by the Toni Morrison Society in 2006 to highlight African American history locally and abroad.
The bench, to be unveiled by The Friends of Hosanna at Lincoln University and the society, will be dedicated at noon on Friday, Sept. 18, at the Hosanna A.U.M.P. Church, on Baltimore Pike near the front entrance to the historically black university's campus, 1570 Baltimore Pike.
Those scheduled to speak at the event include Cheryl Renée Gooch, convener of the Friends of Hosanna at Lincoln and dean of the university's College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; state Sen. Andy Dinniman, Evelyn Schreiber of the society and Hersey Gray, a descendant of an early Hosanna church family.
In a 1989 interview, Morrison, a Nobel Prize-winning novelist, lamented the lack of markers or signs that attested to the lives of slaves in America. She envisioned benches near spots where enslaved and freed Africans made their mark on history.
"There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . ," she said in an interview with World Magazine, reflecting on her novel Beloved. "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."
More than two decades later, the Toni Morrison Society - a literary society dedicated to her work — has taken on the task of placing benches and informational plaques at sites where history was made. They partner with a local organization and call it "Bench by the Road."
Last year, the group erected the 11th bench in the series, near the entrance to Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, Delaware County.
The first bench was placed on Sullivan's Island off the coast of South Carolina in 2008, commemorating Fort Moultrie, the point where many slaves entered America.
The project is international, with one bench in Paris, honoring Louis Delgres, a black French military officer who died fighting for Guadeloupe independence; and another in Martinique, near the birthplace of the poet and anticolonist Aime Cesaire. Other bench sites include Oberlin, Ohio; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Concord, Mass.; George Washington University; First Congregational Church, Atlanta; Lincoln, Mass.; and Mitchelville, S.C.
Others are in Jackson, Miss., Middletown, Del.; and Nyack, N.Y.