February 18, 2015
This Day In History: Toni Morrison Is Born
Toni Morrison was born on Feb. 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, as the second of four children. Her parents helped her to develop her a passion and love for music and reading. Growing up, she lived in a racially mixed neighborhood where she wasn’t aware of racial antagonism until she became a teenager. She later touched on the subject in the New York Times, stating, “When I was in first grade, nobody thought I was inferior. I was the only black in the class and the only child who could read.” However, she remained focused on her education and graduated from high school with honors in 1949.
Morrison majored in English at Howard University; she graduated in 1953. She continued her studies at Cornell University, earning a master’s degree, and then pursued a career in education. Morrison began teaching English classes at Howard, where she met her future husband, Harold Morrison. They had a son in 1961. After the summer of 1963, her husband moved back to Jamaica, his country of origin, and Morrison, pregnant with their second child at the time, moved to Syracuse, New York, where she worked as a senior editor for a textbook publisher.
Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, which depicts the story of a young African American girl who dreamed of having blue eyes—she thought she would have an easier life if her eyes were blue, was published in 1970. Morrison wrote several other books, including Beloved, which was published in 1987 and is based on the life of a former slave who is haunted by her decision to kill her children instead of watch them become slaves too. In 1980, Morrison was appointed to the National Council on the Arts. She won the 1988 Pulitizer Prize for Fiction, and the 1993 Noble Prize in Literature, becoming the first African American woman in history to receive it. A movie version of her novel starred Oprah Winfrey in 1998. Along with her various other endeavors, Morrison designed performance workshops at Princeton and began publishing children’s literature. When she retired from Princeton in 2006, The New York Times Book Review named her book Beloved the best novel published in 25 years.
Now in her 80s, Morrison continues her legacy; she published Home in 2012.
Happy birthday, Toni Morrison.
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