Also known as Chloe Anthony Wofford, Toni Morrison is a novelist, editor, playwright, and professor. From a working-class family, she is the second of four children. After finding her love for literature at a young age, she continued to study English at both Howard and Cornell University and has a lengthy career in higher education, including institutions like Texas Southern University, Howard University, and Yale. In 1989, she served as a chair at Princeton University. After retiring from Princeton in 2006, Morrison went on to be a public lecturer, a literary critic, and an editor for Random House.
Her novelist career began in 1970 with the publication of The Bluest Eye. While it received good reviews, it didn’t sell well. Exploring the African-American experience in all of its forms, her next novel, Sula, fared better than her first and was nominated for the National Book Award in 1975. From there, her success only grew.
In 1977, Song of Solomon was the first work by an African-American author to be a featured selection in the Book of the Month award since Richard Wright’s 1940 publication Native Son. Song of Solomon later won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1987, however, Morrison wrote arguably the greatest masterpiece of her career, Beloved. The chilling tale tells of a former slave, Sethe, haunted by her decision to attempt the murder of her children rather
than watching them be enslaved. While three of her children survived, her infant daughter physically dies but continues to be a living entity in her home. This spellbinding work won numerous literary awards, including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and was eventually adapted into a movie.
Other notable works include Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Jazz, and adorably the children’s books The Big Box and The Book of Mean People, which were co-authored with her son, Slade.
Rightfully earning her spot in history, Morrison was the first African-American woman to be the Nobel Prize in Literature winner (1993). To this day, she continues to inspire generations to look deeper than skin color and illustrates the struggles of the African-American people. Her creative mind and ivy-league background have led her to create a multitude of stories in a myriad of genres. At 86 years old, she is still emboldening the next generation of writers.
“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison