The family of Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison has confirmed that she died Monday night at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center. She was 88 years old.
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison was the second of four children from a Black working-class family. She went on to study at both Howard and Cornell Universities and developed a career as one of the first Black women literary critics and editors for Random House. While there she was responsible for publishing works by Mohammed Ali and Angela Davis.
A voracious reader since her childhood, Morrison taught her passion and love of words and books at the collegiate level as a professor of writing and literature at Howard University, Yale University, and Princeton University.
Her first novel, The Bluest Eye was released in 1970, and Morrison went on to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 for her novel, Beloved, which was adapted into a film that year, starring Oprah Winfrey.
Morrison, who enjoyed a 60-year career, is also internationally recognized for writing numerous critically acclaimed novels including Sula, Song of Solomon, and Jazz. She has written 11 novels in total as well as five children’s books. She was the first Black woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993.
In 2012, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The documentary also looks back on her childhood, her experience as an undergraduate student at Howard University, and much more.
The biopic, directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, offers fans a better understanding of Morrison’s perspective on topics such as racial identity, prejudice, and the “plight of Black Women.”
Her last novel, God Help the Child, was published in 2015.
Morrison’s family has not revealed her cause of death, but did say that she was suffering from a brief illness. The issued a statement which states:
“It is with profound sadness we share that, following a short illness, our adored mother and grandmother, Toni Morrison, passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends. She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled in being with her family and friends. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing. Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well lived life.”
“While we would like to thank everyone who knew and loved her, personally or through her work, for their support at this difficult time, we ask for privacy as we mourn this loss to our family. We will share information in the near future about how we will celebrate Toni’s incredible life.”
Robert Gottlieb from Knopf publishers, has worked with Morrison for years and said: “She was a great woman and a great writer, and I don’t know which I will miss more.”
Sonny Mehta, the chairman of Knopf, said: ” I can think of few writers in American letters who wrote with more humanity or with more love for language than Toni. Her narratives and mesmerising prose have made an indelible mark on our culture. Her novels command and demand our attention. They are canonical works, and more importantly, they are books that remain beloved by readers,” reports the BBC.
Hollywood is now responding to her passing with several Black actors expressing their sympathy and the impact that Morrison’s work had on their lives.
“As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.” -Toni Morrison RIP pic.twitter.com/sbosHnxr08
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) August 6, 2019
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
Holding all those touched by Toni Morrison in my heart today. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2jkAvtaErK
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 6, 2019
She made me understand“writer” was a fine profession. I grew up wanting to be only her. Dinner with her was a night I will never forget. Rest, Queen. “Toni Morrison, seminal author who stirringly chronicled the Black American experience, dies” https://t.co/S6qxix5OCj
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) August 6, 2019
RIP Toni Morrison. This is a devastating loss to the world of words, to our understanding of power and it’s reach, to the cultivation of empathy, to rich, nuanced, elegant storytelling. Her work was a gift to every one who had the pleasure of reading her.
— roxane gay (@rgay) August 6, 2019
In the passing of Toni Morrison, we lost one of our greatest voices & storytellers. Holding close those touched by her being & her gift. Her work gave us power, hope & freedom. While our world shines a little less bright today, we know “something that is loved is never lost.”
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 6, 2019
Please join me in lifting up my Beloved Sister Toni Morrison and all of her friends and family into the light of love while we mourn her passing. May she forever be remembered with our great Ancestors and may we always honor her life and her work. https://t.co/hMs9Ph0EJL
— Iyanla Vanzant (@IyanlaVanzant) August 6, 2019
Thank you Toni Morrison for sharing your many gifts with us. “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” – Toni Morrison Song of Solomon
— Tamron Hall (@tamronhall) August 6, 2019