Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner Toni Morrison Has Died
Morrison is the author of Beloved, Song of Solomon, many more novels, two plays, and a libretto.
Nobel laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Toni Morrison died August 5 at the age of 88 in Montefiore Medical Center in New York after a brief illness.
Born February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison received her BA from the historically black Howard University and then went on to earn a Master of Arts from Cornell University. She went on to teach English at Texas Southern University and then at Howard. In 1965 she began working as an editor at L. W. Singer, a textbook division of publisher Random House, first in Syracuse, New York, and then in New York City. The first black woman senior editor in the fiction department, Morrison helped introduce America to black writers.
Morrison's first novel The Bluest Eye was published in 1970, and over the next decades years she went on to write 10 more, including Song of Solomon (National Book Critics Circle Award, 1977), Beloved (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1988), A Mercy, and God Help the Child. In 1998, Beloved, which is based on the life of a runaway slave Margaret Garner, was adapted into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey.
Morrison also penned two plays. Dreaming Emmett was commissioned by the New York State Writers Institute at SUNY-Albany and first performed in 1986. The work was a historical retelling of the life of Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was murdered in Mississippi by a group of white men. Desdemona, which was first produced in Vienna in May 2011, is a retelling of William Shakespeare's Othello that focuses on the relationship between Desdemona and her African nursemaid, Barbary. In addition, Morrison wrote the libretto for the 2005 opera Margaret Garner. Composed by Richard Danielpour, Margaret Garner premiered on May 7, 2005, at the Detroit Opera House.
From 1989 until her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University. Her son Slade Morrison, a painter, died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at the age or 45. Before his death, the pair collaborated on books for children including The Big Box and The Book of Mean People. She is survived by her son Harold Ford Morrison and three grandchildren.