Toni Morrison

Great Writers

Photo of Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison (1931-2019), the first Black woman to be awarded the Nobel laureate in literature in 1993, gained worldwide acclaim for her empathetic and fearless exploration of Black identity in America – especially the experience of Black women. 

[Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times]

Morrison, born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, became a storytelling icon, weaving poetry, fantasy, and mythic elements into her stories of the Black experience. 
Morrison, whose influences included her family's oral tradition, writes from several perspectives of the individual trying to find their way in an unjust world. Morrison's novel Beloved, which was adapted for a 1998 film starring Oprah Winfrey, is based on the true story of the hardships endured by a runaway slave. 
Cover of The Bluest Eye
Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, which was published in 1970, tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old Black girl who wishes she had lighter skin and blue eyes to make her life easier. 
Morrison's books, including The Bluest Eye, have often been challenged and banned in the U.S. for their portrayal of violent racism and sexual abuse. These challenges never stopped Morrison from writing and holding a mirror up to society to expose the cruelty and injustice she saw.
In 1993, when Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, the Swedish Academy commended her “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” These novels include her critically acclaimed Song of Solomon, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. In 2000, Morrison was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress; in 2010, she was made an officer of the French Legion of Honour; and in 2012, she was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
During her life, Morrison was also a respected book editor, a professor at Howard University, and a longtime faculty member at Princeton University. A documentary released in 2019, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, follows the author's remarkable life and career.

Find out more about Toni Morrison:

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