Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford, the second of four children. Morrison’s father was a shipyard welder. When she was in the first grade, she was the only black student in her class and the only child who was already able to read. Her early literary influences include Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert, and Jane Austen. Later, as a student at Howard University, Morrison toured the South with the Howard University Players. She married Harold Morrison in 1958; they had two children before divorcing in 1964.
Morrison received her B.A. in English and minored in classics. She taught at the State University of New York at Purchase as a professor of English in 1971-1972 and was the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at State University of New York at Albany from 1984 to 1989. From 1989 until she retired in 2006, Morrison was Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. During her career, she has also served as trustee of the National Humanities Center and as cochair of the Schomberg Commission for the Preservation of Black Culture. She is a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Council on the Arts, the Authors Guild, and the Authors League of America. In addition to her writing, Morrison has become a popular public lecturer, focusing on African American literature.