Toni Morrison speaking at "A Tribute to C...

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I could not let Black History month go out without writing something about Toni Morrison, recipient of many distinguished literary awards and the first black woman to win a Nobel prize in  Literature.  Her real name is Chloe Anthony Wofford, but she changed it to Toni to coincide with her middle name since many people could not pronounce her first name correctly. Toni was an excellent student who loved to read and in first grade she was the only black student who could read.

Toni graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC with a bachelor’s degree in English before moving to Cornell University, New York where she graduated with a master’s degree. Toni’s first job was as a teacher in Texas University. She was later offered a job as an editor with Random House where she edited the works of prominent figures like Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis and Andrew Young. 

 While working as an editor, Toni was sending her own manuscripts to publishers. Her first published work, The Bluest Eye (1970) met with much acclain, but was not commercially successful. The novel tells about a young black girl who prayed for blue eyes. Her second novel, Sula, was nominated for the 1975 National Book Award. Toni later published Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981) and Beloved (1987) which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the American Book award. The novel, based on the story of an escaped slave, Margaret Garner, who tried to kill her children so they would not have to be returned to a life of slavery, was made into a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.  Toni went on to publish other novels:  Jazz (1992), Paradise (1999), Love (2003) and A Mercy (2008).

Toni Morrison is no doubt one of the most distinguished African American writers. She has consorted with notable literary figures, scholars, politicians and celebrities.  What I love about Ms. Morrison’s writing is her inimitable way of animating her  descriptions, such that they become as characters in themselves. Some of her narrative can be very complex and multi-layered, not to mention some of  the subject matter which can be very gothic, making them  difficult to digest, but once you have got it, you savor each bite down to the last morsel. African American literature, and history,  owes a great debt to this extraordinary woman. 

Check out this short video of Ms. Morrison at the National Black Writers’ Conference held in Brooklyn, NY, March 2010.

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