Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison has earned fame and acclaim through her published works on black experience, notably female black experience, within the black community. Among her best-known novels are The Bluest Eye and Beloved.
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison was the second oldest of four children. Her father, George, worked primarily as a welder, while her mother, Ramah, was a domestic worker. She credits her parents for instilling in her a love of learning and literature, along with clarity and perspective. There’s no doubt that these values are the foundation for much of her resulting publications.
Morrison earned her bachelor’s degree at Howard University in 1953, followed by a master’s from Cornell University in 1955. She went on to teach for a few years before becoming an editor for Random House.
In 1970, she published her first book, The Bluest Eye, which focuses on a victimized adolescent black girl who is certain her difficult life would be much improved if only she had blue eyes. Though its reception was by the public was rather dismissive, Morrison persevered in her work, sharing tales of black experience. She has published 10 novels since her first.
What is considered to be one of her greatest pieces, Beloved, won her the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The novel is inspired by the story of a real former slave who opts to kill her infant daughter, rather than risk her entering into slavery as she was forced to do. In 1993, she won the Nobel Prize in literature, making her the first African-American woman to be selected for the award.
Her most recent work, published in 2015 is called God Help The Child. The novella focuses on the experience of a young black woman working in the cosmetics industry, while battling the rejections of her past.
Morrison is rightly lauded not only for her contributions to literature, but for her explorations of the black experience. She is highly regarded for her use of fantasy, sinuous poetic style and rich interweaving of the mythic, which bring her characters and their stories to life.
This women’s history month, we salute Toni Morrison for her contributions to literature.