“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” – Toni Morrison, The Guardian, Jan. 29, 1992
Chloe Ardelia Wofford (Toni Morrison), author, editor and professor, was born in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931. Morrison earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Howard University in 1953 and a Master of Arts degree in English from Cornell University in 1955. In 1966, she became an editor at Random House where she played an important role in bringing African American literature into the mainstream. Morrison’s first novel was The Bluest Eye (1970) which was followed by Sula (1973) and Song of Solomon (1977), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1987, her novel Beloved was published and it won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the American Book Award and in 2006 The New York Times Book Review named it the best American novel published in the previous 25 years. In 1998 the book was adapted into a film of the same name. Other novels by Morrison include Jazz (1992), Love (2003), and A Mercy (2008).
In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and was referred to as someone “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Morrison for the Jefferson Lecture, the United States federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Also in 1996, she received the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for “enriching our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.” From 1989 to her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University. On 29 May 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Akosua Report: Facts on The African Diaspora, is written by Akosua Lowery. Follow her on Twitter @AkosuaLowery.