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Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison 1931 - 

Toni Morrison is more than an iconic author. Morrison, the Pulitzer Prize winning (1988), Nobel laureate (1993), and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient (2012), gifted her readers with powerful prose focused on the black experience. Of special note, is the attention she devoted to depicting the black female experience – an often ignored demographic in literature.

Morrison, a Lorain, Ohio native, is the author of internationally acclaimed novels Beloved, The Bluest Eye, A Mercy, Song of Solomon, and countless others. In addition to highlighting the black experience, Morrison unapologetically targeted Black Americans as her primary audience with genuine storytelling of relatable struggle. 

Morrison demanded in her Nobel lecture, “Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul.” As the lecture indicates, Morrison fully expected and hoped folks would write their own life’s stories.

A true academic, Morrison earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Howard University before earning her master’s degree in American Literature from Cornell University. She then moved to Texas and served as literature professor at Texas Southern University for two years. After two years in Texas, Morrison returned to her alma mater Howard University, to teach. Most notable of her Howard students is Civil Rights leader/Black revolutionary Stokely Carmichael.

Morrison left Howard to edit for Random House publishing then eventually joined the faculty at Yale, SUNY Albany, Rutgers, Bard, and SUNY Purchase to teach writing. She edited for Random House while teaching for 19 years before accepting a position in 1989 still held today, as the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University.

Morrison justified her exhaustive resume saying, “I really only do one thing. I read books. I teach books. I write books. I think about books. It’s one job.”

Listen to Morrison in her own words, explain why she writes.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell

Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington