Toni Morrison in Brief (1931-2019)
On the 5th August, 2019, the world of art lost a rare gem, a legend. Toni Morrison died at Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx, New York City from complications of pneumonia at the age of 88. A Nobel Laureate, a novelist, an emeritus professor and perhaps one of the greatest literary voices of her time. Oprah had opined in 2018 that, “it’s impossible to actually imagine the American landscape without a Toni Morrison. She is our conscience, she is our seer, she is our truth-teller.”
Toni Morrison, born as Chloe Ardelia Wofford, was born on 18th February 1931 in Lorain, Ohio in the United States. Toni, which she is famously known by, is the short form of her baptismal name Anthony. She was the second of the four children born to George and Ramah Wofford. She attended Lorain High School. Her university education was at Howard University in Washington, D. C., graduating in 1953 with a B. A. in English before bagging her masters degree from Cornell University in 1955. She thereafter taught at Texas Southern University for two years before going on to teach at Howard University for seven years (1957-1964).
She met her husband Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect, while teaching at Howard and tied the knot in 1958. However, they got divorced in 1964 while she was pregnant with their second son. Toni Morrison began working as an editor in 1965 for L. W. Singer, a textbook division of publisher, Random House in Syracuse, New York and became their first black woman senior editor in the fiction department after her transfer to Random House in New York City.
Toni Morrison published her first book, The Bluest Eye, in 1970 at the age of 39. Her second novel, Sula, was published in 1973 and was nominated for the National Book Award. It won the Ohioana Book Award in 1975. Song of Solomon, her third novel was a main selection of the Book of the Month Club becoming the first novel by a black writer to be chosen since Native Son by Richard Wright in 1940. It also won the National Book of Critics Circle Award. Morrison was awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction in 1979, the highest honor at Barnard College. Tar Baby was published in 1981.
Toni Morrison published her Nobel Prize winning book, Beloved, in 1987. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993 becoming the first black woman of any nationality to win the prestigious prize. After winning the Nobel Prize, The great Maya Angelou prepared a feast for a crowd of 150 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in September 1994 to honour Toni Morrison and US poet Rita Dove. The book also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Beloved is the first of three novels sometimes called the Beloved Trilogy. Jazz and Paradise are the other two books published in 1992 and 1997 respectively.
Morrison was made an officer of the French Legion of Honor in 2010 and was awarded the U. S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Her most recent award was The Thomas Jefferson Medal awarded to her in 2018 by The American Philosophical Society.
It is impossible to exhaust the great works of Toni Morrison and though she might be gone, the monuments which she has built will yet remain never to be touched by time.