Biography: Toni Morrison
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Biography: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is an African American author who is best known for her themes, vivid dialogue, and characters in novels such as Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon. A film version of Beloved was released in 1998 starring Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. Toni Morrison continues to be an inspiration for many writers today.

Toni Morrison is an African American author who is best known for her themes, vivid dialogue, and characters in novels such as Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon. 

Toni Morrison was born as Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1938 in Lorain, Ohio. According to Voices of the Gaps, Toni is the daughter of George and Ramah Wofford; and is the second of four children.  Morrison’s parents came from sharecropping families and left the South during the early 1900’s in search of a better way of life.   Her parents instilled in her the importance of being loyal to her community.  Because of what she was taught by her parents, Morrison believed that the only true place she could turn to for help and reassurance is within her own community.

Toni Morrison’s parents encouraged reading, learning, and culture which nourished her interest in literature at an early age. Morrison’s parents also taught her to be confident in her abilities and attributes as an African American woman.  Morrison graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in classics in 1953; and a master’s degree from Cornell University in 1955. While attending Howard University, Morrison decided to change her name from Chloe to Toni so that it would be easier to pronounce according to Voices of the Gaps. Toni Morrison taught at Texas Southern University for two years. In 1957, she returned to Howard University, where she taught English and began to focus on her own writing.  She met and married fellow architect and faculty member, Harold Morrison.  In 1965, Toni Morrison became a fiction editor.  From 1984 to 1989, Morrison taught writing at the State University of New York at Albany.  After leaving her position at the State University at Albany, she joined the faculty at Princeston University in 1989. 

Toni Morrison published her first novel The Bluest Eye in 1970.  The Bluest Eye is about a young black girl who is obsessed with white standards of beauty and believes that having blue eyes will be the solution to her problems.  In 1973, Morrison’s second novel Sula which discusses friendship and conformity within the community.  Morrison gained national attention in 1977 with the publication of Song of Solomon.  The male protagonist in Song of Solomon is search of his identity.  This novel also focuses on strong African American male characters.  In 1981, Morrison published her fourth novel, Tar Baby which focuses on the interactions between black and white societies.

While living in Albany, New York, Morrison wrote her first play, Dreaming Emmett.  The play is based on the true story of EmmetTill who was accused of whistling at a white woman and killed by racist whites in 1955.  Morrison’s novel Beloved is based on the real life story of Margaret Garner who escaped with her children from Kentucky to Ohio in 1851.  Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.  A film version of the novel was released in 1998 starring Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. 

Toni Morrison has won a number of awards including the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Toni Morrison is the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 according to Nobel Prizes and Literature.  Over the years, Morrison has continued to publish novels. Toni Morrison has broken away from her traditional style of writing and writes children’s books with her son Slade Morrison.  

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