Friendship Poems

Toni Morrison Biography

631px-Toni_Morrison_2008-2Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio; she was the second of four children born into a working class family. As a child, Toni Morrison read constantly. Two of her favorite authors were Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. Growing up Toni Morrison’s father told her numerous folktales of the black community. This method of storytelling later worked its way into Toni Morrison’s writings.

Toni Morrison entered Howard University in 1949 to study English. In 1953, Morrison received her B.A. in English. However, obtaining her B.A. in English was not enough, so she enrolled at Cornell University where she received her Master of Arts in 1955, having written, and defended, a thesis on suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.

After Morrison graduated from Cornell University, she became an English instructor at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, where she taught from 1955 to 1957. After 1957, she decided to return to Howard University, where she first began her studies, to teach English. Upon returning to Howard University, she became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

While teaching at Howard University Morrison met a Jamaican architect, and fellow faculty member, Harold Morrison; they married in 1958. During their marriage, they had two children, Harold and Slade. However, they divorced in 1964.

Shortly after her divorce, Morrison moved to Syracuse, New York, where she began working as a textbook editor. About a year and half after she went to work as a textbook editor she found a new job with Random House. Morrison began working as an editor at the New York City headquarters of Random House. During her career as an editor, Morrison played an important role in bringing black literature into the mainstream, having edited books by Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis and Gayl Jones.

Toni Morrison began writing fiction at Howard University, where she was a part of an informal group of poets and writers that met to discuss their work. She brought a short story she’d written about a black girl who wanted to have blue eyes to one of the meetings she attended. This story later evolved into her first novel, published in 1970, titled The Bluest Eye. She wrote the story while she was teaching at Howard and raising two children. In 2000, The Bluest Eye was chosen as a selection for Oprah’s Book Club.

In 1975, Morrison’s novel, Sula, was nominated for the National Book Award and her third novel, Song of Solomon, published in 1977, brought her national attention. Her third novel was a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month club; it was the first novel by a black writer to be chosen since Richard Wright’s Native Son in 1940. Song of Solomon also won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

In 1987, Morrison’s novel, Beloved, became a great success. The book did not win the National Book Award nor did it the National Book Critics Circle Award, but it did win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Beloved was also adapted into the 1998 film of the same name, which starred Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. In May 2006, The New York Times Book Review named Beloved the best American novel published in the past twenty-five years.

Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993; she was the first black woman to win it. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities chose Morrison for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities.

Toni Morrison is still alive and while most of her books concentrate on black women, she does not identify her works as feminist. In addition to her novels, she has also co-written children’s books with her youngest son, Slade Morrison. Toni Morrison is currently a member of the editorial board for The Nation magazine.


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