Table of Contents
Early Life and Education
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford, in Lorain (Ohio), the second of four children in a black working-class family. Morrison received a B.A. in English from Howard University in 1953, then earned a Master of Arts degree in English, from Cornell University in 1955, for which she wrote a thesis on suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. After graduation, Morrison taught English at Texas Southern University and Howard University. From 1989 until 2006, she was Professor of English at Princeton University.
In 1958 she married a Jamaican named Harold Morrison. They had two children, Harold and Slade, and divorced in 1964. After the divorce she moved to Syracuse, New York, where she worked as a textbook editor. A year and a half later she went to work as an editor at the New York City headquarters of Random House. As an editor, Morrison played an important role in bringing black literature into the mainstream.
Morrison began writing fiction as part of an informal group of poets and writers at Howard University who met to discuss their work. In 1975 her novel Sula (1973) was nominated for the National Book Award. Her third novel, Song of Solomon (1977), brought her national attention. The book was a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the first novel by a black writer to be so chosen since Richard Wright’s Native Son in 1940. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In 1988 Morrison’s novel Beloved became a critical success. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for fiction. Beloved was adapted into the 1998 film of the same name. Morrison later used Margaret Garner’s life story again in an opera, Margaret Garner, with music by Richard Danielpour. In May 2006, The New York Times Book Review named Beloved the best American novel published in the previous twenty-five years.
In 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, with the jury claiming that Morrison “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”
Although her novels typically concentrate on black women, Morrison discourages her readers from reading them as ‘feminist tracts”: “I don’t subscribe to patriarchy, and I don’t think it should be substituted with matriarchy. I think it’s a question of equitable access, and opening doors to all sorts of things.”
- At its 1979 commencement ceremonies, Barnard College awarded her its highest honor, the Barnard Medal of Distinction.
- Oxford University awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in June 2005.
- In November 2006, Morrison visited the Louvre Museum in Paris as the second in its “Grand Invité” program to guest-curate a month-long series of events across the arts on the theme of “The Foreigner’s Home.”
- She is a member since 1981 of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
- The Bluest Eye (1970).
- Sula (1974).
- Song of Solomon (1977).
- Tar Baby (1981).
- Beloved (1987).
- Jazz (1992).
- Paradise (1999).
- Love (2003).
- A Mercy (2008)
Children’s literature (with Slade Morrison)
- The Big Box (2002)
- The Book of Mean People (2002)
- “Recitatif” (1983)
- Dreaming Emmett (performed 1986)
- Margaret Garner (first performed May 2005)
- The Black Book (1974).
- Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992).
- Birth of a Nation’hood (co-editor) (1997).
- Remember: The Journey to School Integration (April 2004).
- What Moves at the Margin: Selected Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn C. Denard (April 2008)
- “This Amazing, Troubling Book” (An analysis of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain)
- Female Nobel Prize Laureates
- The Western Canon and Gender Equality
- Wikipedia.org: Toni Morrison
- Nobelprize.org: Toni Morrison
- Official Website of the Toni Morrison Society