Toni Morrison, Pulitzer & Nobel Prize Winning Author, Passes

By MCNS Staff

Toni Morrison is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2012

Toni Morrison was awarded the prestigious  Medal of Freedom by then President Barack Obama in 2012

Toni Morrison, born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, passed away on August 5, 2019 in The Bronx, New York. Widely considered one of the greatest writers of our time, Morrison is noted for her examination of the Black experience, particularly the black woman’s experience, within a racist and sexist American society.

Morrison attended the famous HBCU, Howard University, from 1949 to 1953, when she obtained a B.A. in English. She then obtained an M.A. in American History from Cornell University in 1955.

She taught at the HBCU Texas Southern University for two years before teaching at her Alma Mater, Howard University, from 1957 to 1964. In 1965 Morrison served as a senior fiction editor at Random House and held that post until the New York State Board of Regents appointed her as Chair in the Humanities at the State University of New York at Albany in 1984. Ms. Morrison left the State University of New York at Albany in 1989 in order to become a professor at Princeton University. Ms. Morrison then retired in 2006.

Among her many awards, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for her novel “Beloved.” She was also the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She was honored as a National Humanities Medalist by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, by President Barack Obama in 2012.

She is the author of nine novels, including The Bluest Eye, her first novel which was published in 1969, Sula, published in 1973, Song of Solomon, published in 1977, Tar Baby, published in 1981, Beloved, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and Jazz, which was published in 1992.

While Morrison taught at Howard University, she married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect, in 1958. They had two children, Harold and Slade, and were married until 1964.

Irenosen Okojie, the award-winning Nigerian novelist, wrote that Toni Morrison’s gift was to make Black people feel seen. In this vein, Morrison gave “meaning and multiplicity to Black lives by writing them into existence.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities, which sponsors the National Humanities Medal, described Morrison as America’s most renowned Black woman writer when she received this award in 2000.

Toni Morrison remains an inspiration for many reasons, but especially because she believed in herself and Black people long before White institutions chose to recognize her.

“I was more interesting than they were,” Morrison said in reference to these very institutions. “I knew more than they did.”

Yet Morrison did not feel that her gift was singular. She believed that all people can make art.  “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

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