Toni Morrison, Chloe Anthony Wofford

Toni Morrison lecture at West Point Military Academy, March 2013 (Photo in the public domain)

Author, editor, playwright, literary critic, and professor Toni Morrison (1931– 2019), born in Lorain, Ohio, as Chloe Anthony Wofford, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the American Book Award in 1988 for her fifth novel, Beloved, and, in 1993, became the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. She later won the National Humanities Medal (2000), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2012), and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction (2016). She was made an officer of the French Legion of Honour in 2010. She grew up in the Midwest in a family that embraced storytelling, singing, and the telling of folktales, demonstrating a love and appreciation for black culture. After earning a bachelor's degree from Howard University (1953) and a master's degree from Cornell University (1955), she taught at Texas Southern University (1955–1957), Howard University (1957–1964), State University of New York at Albany (1984–1989), and Princeton University (1989–2006), where she was Professor Emeritus. She also worked as a fiction editor at Random House. Her works of fiction, which use fantasy and a poetic style to tell of the black experience (particularly, the black female experience) in an unjust society, include The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Beloved (1987—based on a true story), Jazz (1992), Paradise (1998), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008), Home (2012), and God Help the Child (2015). She also wrote the libretto for an opera, Margaret Garner (2005), which is based on the same true story behind her novel Beloved. Other published works include Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992—literary criticism), What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction (2008—essays and speeches, edited by Carolyn C. Denard), and The Source of Self-Regard; Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations (2019). With her son, Slade Morrison, she co-wrote several children's books, including The Book of Mean People (2002) and Please, Louise (2014). She also won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2005 for a children's book, Remember: The Journey to School Integration (2004), which tells and shows through archival photographs the hardships of students during the integration of American public schools. A film, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019), documents her life and career. Toni Morrison died in the Bronx, New York, on August 5, 2019.

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