Toni Morrison Additional Biography


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.


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford; her family was blue-collar Midwestern. Her parents had migrated from the South in search of a better life. From her parents and grandparents, Morrison acquired a background in African American folklore; magic and the supernatural appear with frequency in her work.

At Howard University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree, she changed her name to Toni. After receiving a master’s degree in English from Cornell University, she taught at Texas Southern University and then at Howard, where she met Jamaican architect Harold Morrison. Their marriage ended after seven years. A single mother, Toni Morrison supported herself and two sons as a senior editor at Random House, where she encouraged the publication of African American literature. She has continued to teach at various universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

Originally, Morrison did not intend to be a writer. She has said she began to write because she could not find herself, a black woman, represented in American fiction. In a conversation with novelist Gloria Naylor, published in Southern Review, Morrison speaks of reclaiming herself as a woman and validating her life through the writing of her first book, The Bluest Eye, in which a young black girl prays for the blue eyes that will bring her acceptance.

Morrison celebrates the culture of strong black women that she remembers from her childhood, especially in Sula, Song of Solomon, and Beloved. She believes that being able to recognize the contribution and legacy of one’s ancestors is essential to self-knowledge. Her characters are forced to confront their personal and social histories and are often drawn back to their African heritage.

Some black male critics have challenged Morrison on the grounds that her male characters are too negative, but the literary world has honored her. In 1988, Beloved was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 1993, Morrison became the second American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Toni Morrison has advanced the African American literary canon by producing unselfconscious works about the experiences of blacks in America for a black audience. Yet in spite of the specificity of her subject matter, her novels, some of which have been translated into other languages, have earned a heartfelt popular and critical approval through their universal appeal.

Morrison, the second of four children, was born Chloe Anthony Wofford into a poor but loving household composed of siblings, parents, grandparents, and sometimes friends. Both of her parents, George and Ramah (née Willis) Wofford, emigrated to her native Lorain, Ohio, from the South, her mother at age six coming from Alabama with parents, her father...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Chloe Anthony Wofford was born in Lorain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931, the second of George and Ramah Willis Wofford’s four children. As an adult, Morrison was to view her father, who had been a child in Georgia in the early part of the twentieth century, as an antiwhite racist but also as someone who encouraged excellence and impressed upon his daughter a positive self-image to help her achieve such excellence. Her mother, on the other hand, maintained an optimistic, integrationist perspective, which was nevertheless tempered by a good deal of suspicion of the violence done by whites against blacks.

Morrison was an extremely bright child who, as the only black student in her class, was already able to read in the...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

All of Morrison’s work focuses on the attempts to construct a life out of the violence and destruction of the past. She emphasizes that the true violence of the past is something that takes courage to face, and not all of her characters can face it. Faulkner said that the past is never over; “it isn’t even past.” In Morrison’s novels, the past pursues the present, and, unless people can face it, it will overtake the present and repeat itself in its worst aspects. However, in truly confronting the reality of death and violence, human beings create miraculous shadows that are impressed indelibly upon those who come after them in folklore, myth, music, and art.


Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison was born on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. Her name at birth was Chloe, and she was the second oldest of the four children of George and Ella Ramah Wofford.

When she was eighteen, Morrison entered Howard University, in Washington, D.C., where she majored in English. In 1955, she graduated from Cornell University, in New York, with a master's degree, also in English. For two years, Morrison taught English at Texas Southern University in Houston before returning to Howard University as an instructor. It was at Howard that Morrison met and later married Harold Morrison, who also taught at the school. The couple stayed together for six years and produced two sons.

After Morrison and her husband divorced, Morrison was employed as an editor for publishing giant Random House, where she worked on books written by Toni Cade Bambara, Andrew Young, and Muhammad Ali. It was during her time at Random House that Morrison began to take her own writing seriously. She was a single mother of two young boys and held down a busy job but still found time to complete her first novel, The Bluest Eye, which was published in 1970. Literary critics responded with praise, and Morrison was motivated to write a second novel, Sula, which was published in 1973 and earned her a National Book Award nomination. The National Book Critics Circle Award was the first major prize Morrison won, which she did with her third book, Song of Solomon (1977). Tar Baby(1981) came next, and Morrison's fifth novel, Beloved, which has been called the author's masterpiece, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. Jazz (1992) was Morrison's next novel and a year later, Morrison became the first black female author to win the Nobel Prize. She would go on to write Paradise (1998), Love (2003), and A Mercy (2008), as well as several children's books, some of which were coauthored with her son Slade.

After teaching at Princeton University for almost two decades, Morrison retired in 2006. Some of Morrison's recent honors include a Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (2001), the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (2004), and several honorary degrees from such prestigious universities as Oxford and the Sorbonne.


Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford to George and Rahmah Wofford in 1931. The second of four children, Morrison was raised in the...

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Toni Morrison Published by Gale Cengage

From her childhood days in Lorain, Ohio Toni Morrison learned from her parents, Ramah Willis Wofford and...

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Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. Growing up during the Depression, Morrison witnessed the...

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Nobel laureate Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. She was the second of four children of...

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Like her character Milkman Dead, Toni Morrison came of age in a family that had only recently left the South and moved to the Midwest. Her...

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