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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Known for: first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (1993) Occupation: writer, educator Dates: February 18, 1931 - Also known as: born Chloe Anthony Wofford
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, where she was the only African American student in her first grade class. She attended Howard University (B.A.) and Cornell University (M.A.).

After college, where she changed her first name to Toni, Toni Morrison taught at Texas Southern University, Howard University, State University of New York at Albany and at Princeton. Her students at Howard included Stokely Carmichael (of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC) and Claude Brown (author of Manchild in the Promised Land, 1965).

She married Harold Morrison in 1958, and divorced him in 1964, moving with their two sons to Lorain, Ohio, and then to New York where she went to work as a senior editor at Random House. She also began sending her own novel to publishers.

Her first novel was published in 1970, The Bluest Eye. Teaching at the State University of New York at Purchase in 1971 and 1972, she wrote her second novel, Sula, published in 1973.

Toni Morrison taught at Yale in 1976 and 1977 while working on her next novel, Song of Solomon, published in 1977. This brought her more critical and popular attention, including a number of awards and an appointment to the National Council on the Arts. Tar Baby was published in 1981, the same year Morrison became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Toni Morrison's play, Dreaming Emmett, based on the lynching of Emmett Till, premiered in Albany in 1986. Her novel Beloved was published in in 1987, and won the fiction Pulitzer Prize. In 1987, Toni Morrison was appointed to a chair at Princeton University, the first African American woman writer to hold a named chair at any of the Ivy League universities.

Toni Morrison published Jazz in 1992 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Paradise was published in 1998 and Love in 2003. Beloved was made into a film in 1998 starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
After 1999, Toni Morrison also published a number of children's books with her son, Slade Morrison, and from 1992, lyrics for music by Andre Previn and Richard Danielpour.

Toni Morrison Fiction
Original publication dates: The Bluest Eye 1970, Sula 1973, Song of Solomon 1977, Tar Baby 1981, Beloved 1987, Jazz 1992, Paradise 1998.


  • Beloved. 1998 reprint.
  • Plasa, Carl. Toni Morrison: Beloved. Columbia Critical Guides. 1999.
  • Andrews, William L. and Nellie Y. McKay, editors. Toni Morrison's Beloved: A Casebook. 1999.
  • The Bluest Eye. 2001.
  • James, Rosetta and Louisa S. Nye. The Bluest Eye and Sula: Notes. Cliffs Notes. 1997. paperback)
  • Jazz. 1993 reprint.
  • Paradise. Oprah's Book Club Edition.
  • Reames, Kelly Lynch. Tony Morrison's Paradise: A Reader's Guide. 2001.
  • Song of Solomon. 1987 reissue.
  • Washington, Durthy A. Song of Solomon. Cliffs Notes. Ages 9-12.
  • Ciabattari, Nancy A. MAXnotes for Song of Solomon. 1996.
  • Sula. 1989 reissue.
  • James, Rosetta and Louisa S. Nye. The Bluest Eye and Sula: Notes. CliffNotes. 1997.
  • Tar Baby. 1990 reissue.
  • The Collected Novels of Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz.

  • SheFM favorite Toni Morrison Quotes

  • If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. (speech)

  • If you're going to hold someone down you're going to have to hold on by the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own repression.

  • There is really nothing more to say -- except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how. (from The Bluest Eye)

  • What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not? (from Song of Solomon)

  • The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.

  • Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company. (Nobel Lecture, 1993)

  • In Tar Baby, the classic concept of the individual with a solid, coherent identity is eschewed for a model of identity which sees the individual as a kaleidoscope of heterogeneous impulses and desires, constructed from multiple forms of interaction with the world as a play of difference that cannot be completely comprehended.