Toni Morrison, bom Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, grew up to be one of the most significant novelists of this age. Born during the Depression, she experienced the extreme poverty that African-Americans often faced. She was the daughter of sharecroppers who moved to Ohio after losing their land in Greenville, Alabama.
Morrison was an excellent student who completed her B.A. at Howard University in 1953 and her M.A. at Cornell University two years later. She began teaching at Texas Southern University in 1955, but left her post to teach at Howard University from 1957 to 1964. She wrote short stories, changed her name to Toni Morrison, and in 1964 began to edit textbooks for Random House. She was promoted to senior editor
of the trade division, moved to New York City, and wrote her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1969. Based on the story of a black girl who yearns for a white concept of beau¬ ty, The Bluest Eye touched a new chord in American readers.
It was followed by Sula (1973), and Song of Solomon, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977. The following year, President Jimmy Carter appointed Morrison to the National Council of the Arts. Tar Baby (1981) was followed by Beloved, which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Jazz, her most recent work, won the 1993 Nobel Prize for Litera¬ ture.
While writing, and editing for Random House, Morrison still continued to teach. From State University ofNew York in 1969 to Yale University in 1975, to Bard College from 1979 to 1980, Morrison used her poetic, intimate voice to explore “things that had never been articulated, printed or imagined…about black girls, black women….”
In 1984, Morrison retired from publishing and became the humanities chair at the State University of New York at Albany. She left when Princeton University offered her the Robert Goheen Professorship on the Council of the Humanities, making her the first African- American woman writer to hold a named chair at an Ivy League university.
Along with her novels, which are held up among the nation’s best, Morrison has recently writ¬ ten a play, Dreaming Emmet, and published a book of essays, entitled Playing in the Dark (1992).