Toni Morrison is an African American fiction
writer. Her novels became famous in the
1970s and 1980s. She has won numerous
awards for her work, most famously, a Nobel
Prize in Literature, a Pulitzer Prize for
Fiction, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on
February 18, 1931 in Ohio.
As a child she enjoyed storytelling and reading, so
it was assumed that she would do well in school.
Her upbringing inspired many of her novels (Bloom
Her father was a sharecropper who moved north to become a
shipyard welder in order to provide a better life for his family.
Her mother taught her to be powerful, resourceful, and
respectful which fueled many of her maternal themes in her
She heard stories of the past from her grandparents about
growing up in the South.
She was the second of four children (Bloom 10).
Toni attended Howard University and received
a BA in English in 1953.
She received a Masters from Cornell in 1955.
Afterwards she taught at Texas Southern
University in 1957 then returned to teach at
She married a fellow faculty member, Harold
Morrison and had two children.
They divorced in 1964 and she began working
as an editor (Bloom 10-11.
The Bluest Eye 1970
Song of Solomon 1977
From her family she was taught to have a strong,
black self image which is prevalent in her novels.
Maternal authority and equality in marriage.
Power in black community.
African American identity, shame, trauma, and
She wrote this book because she wanted to write a book that
didn’t exist at the time and she wanted it to be a book she
would want to read.
This book was continued from a short story Morrison had wrote
earlier about an African American girl who wanted blue eyes.
The novel shows the problems of race and class hierarchies
related to “poor and black”.
They have internalized their inferior position from ‘white
culture’ and do not believe anything else (internalized racism)
The main character, Pecola, goes
through many traumas including
racial shaming, rejection and
abuse from her mother, sexual
abuse from her alcoholic and
violent father, and scapegoating
by members of the community.
Pecola ends up having to create
an alternate identity because her
true life is too difficult to bear
This novel revolves around the themes of black
masculinity, assimilation, and black nationalism.
The search for African American roots is also a
large part of the book.
It brings attention to the personal-familial and
social-historical aspects of African-American
identities (Bouson 75).
The main character, Milkman Dead, is in the black
elite but he carries shame from his family.
He learns about black masculinity and his true
identity while in different parts of the United States.
This book is really addressed to middle-class
African American males as it shows the struggles
between classes and how to fit in with the
“privileged” and the poor blacks (Bouson 75-76).
This novel encapsulates the importance of race to
African Americans; they have been labeled as the
Other, inferior, dirty, unintelligent, primal.
Slavery is in the forefront as it shows how
internalized racism affected the slaves.
She shows slavery in its harshest and truest forms,
because she does not want people to forget how
much hurt and shame it caused (Bouson 131).
The main character, Sethe, is a slave mother who decides to
kill her children and herself because her slave owner had
She based this event off of a real person’s life, Margaret
By using infanticide, she was able to use the shock factor in
making readers more interested in the book.
Trauma and shame run rampant throughout this novel as
well showing how all Morrison’s books use these themes
Toni Morrison won the Pulizter Prize for fiction for
Beloved in 1988.
She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
She has won numerous other awards for books
She has honorary degrees from Barnard College,
Oxford University, Rutgers University and received
one of the highest honors from Vanderbilt
The novels written by Toni Morrison provided a new
outlook on African American life. She was honest and
truthful in her writing which shocked people, but it gave
her the recognition she deserved. Being an African
American woman novelist is the current society is very
important to people everywhere. She has allowed for
many to relate to her books and for others to be able to
understand what people have gone through.
She was the first African American woman to win a Nobel
Her writings have inspired many African American
women to become writers. They have seen her
success and know that they can do it too. In school,
unfortunately books written by women and men of
color rarely make it into curriculums and Toni
Morrison has been able to change that. Her novels
allow every person regardless of race a chance to
learn about African American culture and the
struggles that are prevalent in everyday life.
In 2008, Morrison did an
interview with Time
Magazine. She answered
10 questions from people
around the country. This
was the one that I found
most interesting and
“Do you think that young black
females are dealing with the
same self-acceptance issues
today as your character was in
The Bluest Eye?”
-Francesca Siad, CALGARY,
“No, not at all. When I wrote
the book, the young women
who read it liked it [but] were
unhappy because I had sort of
exposed an area of shame.
Nowadays I find young African-
American women much more
complete. They seem to have a
confidence that they take for
granted. (Time 2008)”
In order to put more recognition on Toni Morrison
and her accomplishments I think that schools and
colleges should include her books in their
curriculums. I had never heard of Toni Morrison
until college and I think that mature high schoolers
could be able to read and understand her novels. I
believe that many African American Studies
programs would have her novels as assigned
readings, but Women and Gender Studies courses
and feminism courses could have her books in
them as well.
"10 Questions." Time 171.20 (2008): 4. Military & Government Collection. Web. 9 Sept. 2013.
Bouson, J. Brooks. Quiet As It's Kept : Shame, Trauma, And Race In The Novels Of Toni Morrison.
Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2000. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 9 Sept.
Bloom, Harold. Toni Morrison. Broomall, Pa: Chelsea House, 2000. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).
Web. 9 Sept. 2013.
Photos have sources in the notes portion of the slides.