September 28, 2021

Toni Morrison – Author, Publisher, Civil Rights Activist & Nobel Prize Winner In Literature

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American woman named Toni Morrison who devoted her life to civil rights activism and bringing the literary skill of Black writers and their stories to mainstream while also authoring multiple novels herself, including winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Toni Morrison Birth & Education

Chloe Ardelia Wofford was born on February 118, 1931 to parents Ella Ramah Willis and George Wofford Sr. in the city of Lorain, Ohio, a racially integrated town. She attended Lorain High School where she was on of the few African American students in class. She was very active in school, participating in multiple clubs, one of those being the debate team.

After graduation, she went on to enroll Howard University in Washington D.C. to study English. It was here that she earned her B.A. in English in 1953 and then pressed forward to earn her masters from Cornell University in New York in 1955.

It was while she was a Howard University that she decided to change her name to Toni because many mispronounced her birth name Chloe. She originally used the name in grade school when she became Catholic, after Anthony of Padua. She regretted changing her name years later, especially when she wrote her first novel The Bluest Eye.

Toni Morrison Teaching Career

Now being Toni Wofford, she began teaching after graduation from Cornell University at the largest historically Black colleges and universities in the United States of American – Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. She taught there for a couple of years, and in 1957 went on to teach at her alma mater Howard University back in D.C.

It was in 1958 that she married her husband who was an architect, Jamaican born Harold Morrison – becoming officially known thereafter as Toni Morrison.

Now, a wife, Toni and her husband Harold, had two children between they years of 1961 and 1965. During that time, right before the birth of their second son, she divorced Harold. Being the independent thinker and career woman that she was, the mother went to work as an editor for L.W. Singer textbooks in New York in 1965, despite the failing of her marriage.

Her editing skills led her to become the 1st Black woman editor at Random House in their fiction department in 1967. It was as fiction editor at Random House that she pushed for the works of Black writers and authors around the globe, supplying them a pathway to hit mainstream. At that time, Black authors and writers were thin to none in the mainstream because they were simply not given attention from publishers who were more interested in pushing white authors. Toni Morrison now had the position and power to bring attention to Black writers who may have been ignored.

Toni Morrison As Writer & Author

Toni had been editor, promoter and even publisher for many Black authored works including The Black Book and Play Ebony, Play Ivory by Henry Dumas. It was soon after her work with all these writers that Toni Morrison released her first offering – The Bluest Eye – in 1970. After that, she became one of the most influential Black and female authors of the times, writing the full list of novels, short stories, children’s books and plays below:

Novels

  • Song of Solomon
  • Sula
  • Tar Baby
  • Beloved (from book to film)
  • Jazz
  • Paradise
  • Love.
  • A Mercy
  • God Help the Child
  • Home.

Co-authored with Son, Slade Morrison

  • The Big Box
  • The Book of Mean People
  • Remember: The Journey to School Integration
  • Who’s Got Game? The Ant or the Grasshopper?, The Lion or the Mouse?, Poppy or the Snake?
  • Peeny Butter Fudge
  • Little Cloud and Lady Wind
  • Please, Louise

Poems, Plays and Short Stories

  • Dreaming Emmett (play)
  • Desdemona (play)
  • Recitatif (short fiction)
  • Sweetness (short fiction)
  • Five Poems
Akirim Press

Toni Morrison Awards

Toni Morrison has won countless awards a few major awards being the Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded in 1993, the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved in 1988 as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Seven years after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Toni Morrison passed away.

Toni Morrison’s Death

On August 5, 2019, Toni Morrison left us with an awesome amount of literature when she passed away at 88 years old.


Sources:

  • [1] The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/aug/06/toni-morrison-obituary