This Day In History: February 18th
Celebrated author, Toni Morrison, published novels that explored themes relative to the African-American experience. Morrison used her love of literature and skilled writing abilities to inspire generations of writers to follow in her footsteps. Here are five things to know about Toni Morrison!
- “Toni” Was Only A Nickname. She was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931. At the age of 12, Morrison became a Catholic and chose the name Anthony (after St. Anthony of Padua) as her confirmation name. She took it on as her middle name and then shortened it to “Toni” as a student at Howard University. People had a hard time pronouncing Chloe so she went by her nickname to avoid confusion. Her last name changed in 1958 after she married Harold Morrison.
- Her Love For Literature Began As A Child. Morrison grew up in a household that embraced African-American culture and heritage. Family members often exchanged stories and folktales which captured her attention and sparked her love for literature and reading. Her childhood also had an influence on her writing style.
- Worked As An Editor Before Becoming An Author. After graduating from Howard University and working as a teacher, Morrison moved to Syracuse, New York to become an editor. Morrison had a position within the textbook division of Random House publishing. After two years she was transferred to the New York City branch of the company and began to edit fiction and books by African-American authors. It wasn’t until she published The Bluest Eye in 1970 that her writing activities became known to her colleagues.
- Finding Success As An Author. Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, at 39 years old and published more than a dozen books over the span of her career. By the release of her third novel, Morrison was a household name. Song of Solomon earned the National Book Critics Circle Award and she made the transition to a full-time writer following the success of her books. She left the publishing industry and focused on writing novels, essays, and plays. Morrison released Beloved in 1987, which was based on the true story of an African-American enslaved woman. The novel won several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and it was a bestseller for 25 weeks. Morrison’s final book, The Source of Self-Regard, was published in 2020 and features a nonfiction collection of essays and speeches on culture and society.
- The First African-American Recipient Of The Nobel Prize in Literature. More than 20 years after publishing her first novel, Morrison made history when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Morrison won the award in 1993 and was the first African-American to receive this prize. The selection committee noted that her work “gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”