Toni Morrison - Biography



toni morrison photo

“This woman is a little crazy… ain’t we all?”

- Anonymous

Toni Morrison - A bird’s eye view oversees a line of achievements and awards that none of the other author has received in her lot. She was a woman from the renaissance period, which makes sense when we take a gaze at her work. Just name it; Civil Rights activism, writing, teaching and anti-racist campaigns; this intellectual giant has taken part in everything during her days.

Birth of a Legend:

Toni Morrison, (Chloe Anthony Wofford) was born in Ohio – Lorain on Feb. 18 – 1931. Ohio wasn’t their native region, the family took off from Alabama because of the mounting debts that were a little hard to repay. On top of that, they were all black, which sort of made the matters more complicated. That’s why, Morrison’s father made the decision of migrating to Ohio.

She grew up in a typical black society, so it was quite rare of her to see something “White” moving about its business. During her childhood stays in Midwest, she’d spend her time reading Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austin. Often times, when Mr. George Wofford (Toni’s father) would get time, he’d pour interesting details of their family history.

Those times were short of various means of entertainment. The noons were spent facing intense labor hours, while the nights were void of any TVs or Radios. Folks would gather around and listen to one family elder, talking about the familial roots, grandpa and grandma’s visions and all that stuff.

Toni Morrison was a brilliant student. Her brains and intellect got her going on in the ever-so-popular Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1949. It was one of the most distinguished educational institutes of America, getting to pursue an educational career there, was considered to be an honor. Especially when there were a lot of black candidates and a little or no room for vacancy, schools and colleges were forced to recruit the cream of the crop.

They say that name does have an impact on your fate and personality. If that were true, it really did work in Morison’s case. Followed by her days in the Howard University, this would-be authoress changed her name from “Chloe” to “Toni”. Besides, Chloe was a little difficult to pronounce too… In 1955, Toni carried out her thesis on the subject of suicide. She drew her attention from the works of Virginia Wolf and William Faulkner, which got her an M.A. degree with flying colors.

Hobbies, Music and Folklore History:

If there was one thing that the renaissance period icons shared in their childhood, it was a strong inkling for music. Their youthful days were filled up with captivating folklore music, rituals and myths. Especially the mythical incantations of spirituality were deeply tied to the family. In Morrison’s opinion, they’d follow signs and visions to derive their future predictions.

A close inspection of Morrison’s earliest work reveals a strong tinge of “storytelling” style. She used her childhood memories and general experience to write something for the betterment and enlightenment of mankind. Her real life world is often pushed in her stories. It may be a little hard to spot down, but there’s always something in the passages that link back to this writer’s past.

Toni Morrison’s favorite authors included;

William Shakespeare
Leo Tolstoy
Jane Austin
Faulkner
Gustave Flaubert

When she started writing, her style followed the narrative prose of authors that she used to follow during that time. It is very natural of a startup writer to follow someone else’s pattern to express himself / herself. In Stephen King’s opinion, “I think that following someone else’s style comes as a natural wonder to all the good writers. It is a crucial element to developing one’s own style.” – From ‘On Writing’.

Marital Life and Career:

From 1955 and onwards, the authoress spent most of her time teaching, at the Howard University - The same institute where she was once enrolled as a student. She met a guy named Harold Morrison, a native from Jamaica, who was teaching the subject of architecture in the same institute. Soon enough, cupid struck them with a love drenched arrowhead and they got married in 1958. The couple had two sons, Slade and Harold Junior (also remembered as Ford).

6 years later, the couple mutually agreed on settling for a Divorce. Their marriage just didn’t work out the way they were anticipating. She later on moved to Syracuse – New York in 1968, where a Random House company appointed her as an editor. Evenings were usually work free, so she’d easily squeeze time out for her writing ventures. At her workplace, she was the only African American woman to have a senior post in the industry. People started looking up to her; she was a source of strong inspiration for her subordinates.

Literary Achievements:

“The Bluest Eye” (1970) was one of the earliest novels of Toni Morrison. Unlike Alice Walker, she never had any regrets regarding the narrative prose regarding her first novel. It was a story about a young African girl who’d wish for a blue pair of eyes, just to match a totally different plateau of beauty.

Take a look at Morrison’s other works as well;

Sula (1974) - This was Morrison’s second novel, widely acclaimed and well received everywhere.
Song of Solomon (1977) - This novel brought a National Book Critics Circle Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award to the authoress (1996).
Tar Baby (1981)
Beloved (1987) – (Pulitzer Prize)
Jazz (1992)
Paradise (1997)

Toni Morrison’s subject oscillates between the grim colors of love, sadness, racial tortures, beauty and ugliness. Her “ugliness” comes from the deepest depths of a heart, as faces are just homage to temporal looks.

For the body of her entire work, Morrison was awarded the Novel Prize for Literature. The awarding committee cited her novel “Beloved” as an outstanding work of fiction. It’s phenomenal story about slavery and the hauntings of a restless spirit, who was loved by the protagonist because she lost her own child some time back.

Present Status:

From 1999 and onwards, Morrison has been writing books for children. “The Big Box” was first published back then. The authoress magnificently set the plot from a kid’s point of view. The book shows how adults sometimes block a child’s creativity and wishful thinking. Morrison is currently a senior member of “The Nation” magazine. She was last seen in May 2010, for a conversation with Marlene Van Niekerk, at the Pen World Voices expo.