Toni Morrison
Nobel Laureate in Literature
Copyright Helen Marcus, 1977
"I really think the range of emotions and perceptions I have had access to as a black person and as a female person are greater than those of people who are neither... So it seems to me that my world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger."

Choosing to pursue one's dreams is a difficult and challenging goal. Toni Morrison accepted this challenge and, starting from her early years, has lived up to her own standards and hasn't let anything or anyone stand in her way. Having been born in Lorain, Ohio with the name Chloe Anthony Wofford, Morrison grew up in a family of four children. As Toni grew up and learned to read, she found herself constantly having her head in a book. She loved the way stories unfolded and how a book had the power to transport a reader to places normally unreachable. Toni's love for reading came partially from her father, George Wofford. Toni loved listening to her father tell folktales and stories; the stories her father told her gave her the love of storytelling that she has carried with her for her entire life.

Continuing to expand her thirst for knowledge, Toni attended Howard University in 1949; and after completing school there, she decided to continue her schooling even further at Cornell University in 1955.

By this time Toni had changed her name from "Chloe" to "Toni" because she thought it was too difficult for people to pronounce. She decided the shorter version of her middle name, "Anthony" was much better. Her last name "Morrison" came from her marriage in 1958 to Howard Morrison. In 1964, after having two children, Toni and Howard got a divorce.

Morrison didn't let anything, including her divorce, get in the way of her pursuing her dreams. Her dreams of writing started around 1955 when Toni became an English instructor at Texas Southern University in Houston. She didn't stay in that position very long; Toni moved to Syracuse, New York to become an Editor for a textbook company. After that she became an acclaimed editor for "Random House" in New York City.

This was where Toni decided she would kick start her dream of bringing the public focus to African American Literature. Prior to her contributions, African American literature was very marginalized and was not often taken into the mainstream. She made her debut as a novelist in 1970 with The Bluest Eye and became widely recognized when she wrote Song of Soloman, the story of a young black man searching for his identity. Toni worked with many famous black authors, such as Toni Cade Bambara and Gayl Jones. She has contributed much to the awareness and acceptance of African American Literature, and continues to do so today at Princeton University. She has created a program called the "Princeton Atellier"; which is a collaborative effort between famous artists and students to produce amazing works of art. Morrison helps up-and-coming artists of all kinds with her valuable insight and support. And since 1981, she's been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 along with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

After over 17 years of work at Princeton, and countless years of devotion to literature prior to that, Morrison announced her retirement in May 2006. Despite her retirement, Morrison plans to keep providing help to aspiring artist for many years to come.

Some of Morrison's Novels include:

  • Love (2003)
  • Paradise (1999)
  • Jazz (1992)
  • Beloved (1987)
  • Tar Baby (1981)
  • Song of Solomon (1977)
  • Sula (1973)
  • The Bluest Eye (1970)

For More Information:

Literary Encyclopedia biography
Anniina's Toni Morrison Page
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1993
1987 audio interview by Don Swaim of CBS Radio

Bessie Coleman Educational Doll Set

Bessie Coleman Biography