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Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison Facts:

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

In her novels, Toni Morrison focuses on the experience of black Americans, particularly emphasizing black women's experience in an unjust society and the search for cultural identity. She uses fantasy and mythic elements along with realistic depiction of racial, gender and class conflict.

Toni Morrison Biography:

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.

Background, Family:

  • Father: George Wofford (shipyard welder)
  • Mother: Ramah Willis Wofford

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Harold Morrison (married 1958, divorced 1964; architect)
  • children: Harold Ford, Slade Kevin

More Toni Morrison:

Suggested Reading:

Toni Morrison - Writings, Interviews, on the Web

Lesson Plans

Toni Morrison - Nobel Prize

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