Toni Morrison, born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931 grew up in a poor working-class family in Lorrain, Ohio. Her father, George Wofford worked as a welder and her mother, Ramah Wofford was a homemaker.
One of the greatest lessons passed down by her parents took place when she was just two years old – her parents could not pay the rent and the landlord set fire to the house, while they were home. Morrison recalls the way her parents responded to the incident taught her never to fall into despair in the face of adversities and to always maintain integrity, no matter how cruel the circumstances.
Facts you need to know about the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature:
- As a child, Morrison loved to read books. Among her favourite authors were Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy (source: Wikipedia).
- She worked for many years as a book editor for Random House and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University (source: Wikipedia).
- She published her first book, The Bluest Eye, at the age of 39 (source: Wikipedia).
- Most of her novels explore the African-American experience and the struggle against injustice and issues of cultural identity. Her critically-acclaimed novel, Beloved, is based on the true story of “a runaway slave who, at the point of recapture, kills her infant daughter in order to spare her a life of slavery”. In 1988, the novel won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and was subsequently made into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey (source: Encyclopaedia Britannica).
- She was awarded the highest U.S. civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by former U.S. President, Barack Obama.
- Her latest book, God Help the Child was recorded as an audio book with Morrison reading it herself (source: goodnewsnetwork.org).
To commemorate what would have been her 89th birthday, we share some of her memorable words on life.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
“You are your best thing.”
“Make a difference about something other than yourselves.”
Featured image sourced from guardian.com