A Bench By the Road

Toni Morrison once explained that her Pulitzer-prize winning novel, Beloved, came out of a need to commemorate the history of slavery.

“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,” she said. Literature can uniquely honor the worst parts of history. But this summer, the Toni Morrison Society dedicated a small bench by a road on Sullivan's Island off the coast of South Carolina. Sullivan's Island was the port of entry for an estimated 40 percent of the millions of people enslaved in this country. For the first time since her 1987 novel Beloved, Morrison is returning to the subject of slavery but in a different century and in a different context. A Mercy is her first book in five years. Morrison ends her conversation with Bob asking for another hour. I wish we had had one too.