The Life and Work of Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, to George and Ramah Willis Wofford in Lorain, Ohio. Although life in a post-depression steel-mill town would have been difficult for most children, Chloe, the second of four children, had loving and strong-willed parents. They taught her much about how to heal the wounds caused by racism.
Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953. It was during her college years that she adopted what had been her nickname, Toni, which she’d taken from her middle name. In 1955, she received her M.A. in English from Cornell, and for the next two years, she taught English at Texas Southern University, then returned to teach at Howard. She married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect; their first son, Harold Ford, was born in 1962. A second son, Slade Kevin, was born in 1966. After divorcing Morrison, Toni left teaching to work at Random House, a publishing company in Syracuse, New York. She worked there for the next 20 years, and during the same time period, she taught and lectured at several colleges, wrote and published novels, and raised her two sons.
Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), was very well received in both popular and critical circles. Since then she has published six more novels: Sula (1974), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Beloved (1987), Jazz (1992), and Paradise (1998). She has also published a play, Dreaming Emmett (1986), and a collection of essays, Playing in the Dark (1991).
Morrison joined the faculty of Princeton University in 1989; she was the first African-American woman to receive a chaired position at an Ivy League university. In addition to the Nobel Prize for Literature Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977.