The first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Morrison’s impact on our society has been felt for decades.
She didn’t start as a wunderkind, either. Her first novel wasn’t published until she was 39 and she kept publishing until she was 84.
Her Early Life
Born in 1931 in Ohio, Morrison was always an avid reader. Her parents had instilled in her a love of stories through traditional African-American folktales, ghost stories, and singing songs.
After high school, she attended Howard University where she earned her BA in English. She went on to earn her Masters at Cornell University. Upon graduating, she became a professor of English at Texas Southern University and then back to Howard University.
It was while Morrison was teaching at Howard that she had begun to write her own fiction. With the help of a writing group, her first novel The Bluest Eye was born. It quickly became a critical success and was soon being taught at universities across the country.
Her second novel Sula was nominated for the National Book Award and her third, Song of Solomon, won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In 1987, she published her most celebrated book, Beloved. Inspired by a true story of an enslaved African American woman, Beloved was not only a critical success but a commercial one – staying on the bestseller list for 25 weeks. It would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize.
She would go on to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993. The Swedish Academy cited her “novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import,” through which she “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”
Her writing never slowed either. Throughout her career, she would publish 11 novels, children books, and essay collections.
Morrison continued to teach throughout her writing career. In 1989, she joined the Creative Writing faculty at Princeton University, teaching until 2006. She not only taught, but helped to develop the program itself.
Her work continues to influence writers and other artists across the globe. Her ability to weave in myth, magic, superstition and the utter realism of what it means to be a Black woman in America made her writing both gripping and devastating.
You only have to Google Toni Morrison to see her huge impact on not only American literature, but on the world as a whole. She was even named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2000.
We can only guess the impact she had on the future authors of America and beyond through her teaching, her works, and her creative gifts.
She truly is proof that age and writing are nothing but numbers.