February 18, 1931 Toni Morrison’s birthday
Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning novelist, is born this day in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio.
Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford to a welder father and homemaker mother. She graduated from Howard University in 1953, then took a master’s in literature at Cornell. She married architect Howard Morrison and had two sons.
After she and her husband divorced, Morrison taught English and worked as one of the very few black editors at Random House. She published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1969, followed by Sula in 1973. She first came to national attention in 1978, however, when she won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon.
After the publication of her breakthrough novel, she published Tar Baby (1981). Her 1987 novel, Beloved, the story of a 19th-century slave who escapes bondage but is forced to kill her own baby, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
Morrison won the Nobel Prize in 1993, becoming the first African-American to win the award, as well as the first American woman in general to win in more than 50 years. The same year, a fire destroyed her Nyack, New York, home-fortunately, she’d left the manuscript of her next novel, Paradise, in her office at Princeton University, where she was teaching creative writing. The book, published in 1998, explored the dynamics of an all-black town in the late 1960s.