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Black Arts and Culture

Toni Morrison Leaves Lifetime Legacy Unlike Any Writer Before Her

By New Journal and Guide Staff

Toni Morrison, the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for her book “Beloved” died Monday August 5 in New York at age 88.

Literary critics say her unique literary legacy gave voice to the life of African-Americans in an earthy, poetic, powerful form in her books Beloved, Song of Solomon, Sula and The Bluest Eye.

Born in Lorain, Ohio in 1931, the  second of four children of a welder and a homemaker, Morrison was given the name Chloe Wofford.

She changed her name, she said, in her bio to Toni while studying at Howard University because she said it was easier for other people to pronounce. Morrison was the surname of her ex-husband, a Jamaican architect whom  she divorced in 1964 after a six-year marriage.

In her writings, Morrison spoke to the pain and resiliency of the African-American experience, especially women.

The Morrison family issued this statement via Morrison’s publisher: “It is with profound sadness we share that, following a short illness, our adored mother and grandmother, Toni Morrison, passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends. She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled in being with her family and friends. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.

 Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well-lived life.”

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In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded her the  Medal  of Freedom at the White House.

Morrison published her first novel “The Bluest Eye” in 1970. The story revolves around child abuse.  The play was performed by the Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk during its 2018-2019 season.

The book tells the story of a young Black girl named Pecola Breedlove, who is raped by her father. She is eventually driven mad by her desire to become like Shirley Temple, the adored white child actor of the 30s and 40s.

Her second novel was “Sula,” in 1973 which explored the complicated relationship between two Black women growing up in a midwestern town.

“Tar Baby” published in 1981 was set in the Caribbean and was her exploration of Black folklore.

“Son of Solomon” established her among the contemporary Black writers.

This story explored the life of a Black man looking to find his place in the world. It was also the first novel written since Richard Wright’s “Native Son” to be chosen for the Book of the Month Club.

Morrison’s “Beloved” published in 1987 was deemed her literary masterpiece and she won a Pulitzer Award for it. It won the eye and favor of Oprah Winfrey and was made into a movie.

She continued to publish into her 80s as late as 2015.

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“Morrison’s novels were celebrated and embraced by booksellers, critics, educators, readers, and librarians,” her publisher said. “Her work also ignited controversy, notably in school districts that tried to ban her books. Few American writers won more awards for their books and writing.

In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first African American woman to be so honored. Judges hailed her, saying  her “novel characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

She was bestowed America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal, in 2012.

Compiled From Various News Sources

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