We join the world in mourning the loss of groundbreaking author Toni Morrison (Feb 18, 1931-Aug 5, 2019). Her novels were rooted in black lives and often pushed readers out of their comfort zone to confront harsh truths.
Morrison worked as a college instructor and an editor before turning to writing. She was 39 years old when she published her first novel The Bluest Eye in 1970. In 1987 she published Beloved, the story of a former slave who is haunted after killing her baby to protect it from slavery. Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Morrison went on to receive the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African-American woman to be selected for the award. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Read more from the Encyclopedia of World Biography Online.
Topeka native Kevin Young. poetry editor for the New Yorker and the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, speaks beautifully to the importance of Morrison’s voice:
“Toni Morrison’s death may come as a shock because her words seem so evergreen, even eternal, as they explore our American dilemmas and delights. Morrison centered Blackness in ways unparalleled though she was not alone in doing so — she let us know she was in the tradition of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, of black and unknown bards and enslaved persons she dared give a name. Who else besides her beloved James Baldwin will guide us through the hard times and harder truths? She helped us see ourselves, and free ourselves, and reminds us that, as she put it, ‘The function of freedom is to free someone else.'” –Excerpted from “How We Weep for Our Beloved: Writers and Thinkers Remember Toni Morrison,” The New York Times.
Her literary legacy will live on.