Toni Morrison: First Black Woman to Win the Nobel Prize in Literature

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Toni Morrison was the first black woman to win The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. The Nobel Prize, since its establishment in 1900, awards its nominees in six categories:

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  • Peace
  • Physics
  • Medicine
  • Literature
  • Chemistry
  • Physiology
  • Economic Sciences (1968)

To recognize the greatest contributions to humanity, Alfred Nobel left instructions in his will to establish the Nobel Prize. Over the past century, The Nobel Prize has been awarded 116 times to 120 deserving laureates for their contributions to humanity, science, and society. 

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Toni Morrison’s Early Life, Education, and Work

Christened Chloe Anthony Wofford, Morrison was the second child of four children born into a black-working class family. After graduating from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she earned a master’s degree in American Literature from Cornell University in 1955.

Morrison went back to Howard University to start her academic career. She was also the chairperson at Princeton University. She worked as the first black female publishing editor at Random House in 1964, publishing her first novel six years later. 

Her first book, The Bluest Eye, set in 1941, detailed the struggle of a black girl seen as ugly due to her black skin and the social pressure to fit in—desiring blue eyes. Morrison’s third novel, Song of Solomon, attracted the eyes of everyone and won her the National Book Critics Circle Award. Besides, she won the Pulitzer Prize Award in 1988 with The Beloved.

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In her novels, Morrison reveals the reality of black people, black history, and the difficult situations they face daily. She empathizes with her characters, conveys their integrity, and concisely tells the stories of black people.

In 2010, Morrison was awarded the French Legion of Honor. In two years, she would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A documentary to honor her is—Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, released in 2019.

Toni Morrison’s Books You Should Read

  • The Bluest Eye (1970), Morrison’s first novel, is a novel of initiation about a victimized adolescent black girl who longs for blue eyes because she’s stereotyped to be ugly due to her skin color. She, however, thinks white skin and blue eyes are the beauty standards. 
  • Morrison’s second novel, Sula, was published in 1973; it examines friendship dynamics and community expectations for conformity.
  • She gained national attention after publishing Song of Solomon (1977), which tells the story of a male narrator searching for his identity.
  • Toni Morrison published Tar Baby in 1981. 
  • Beloved (1987) won Morrison the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Oprah Winfrey starred in the 1998 film adaptation of the novel.
  • Set during the 1920s in New York City’s Harlem, Morrison wrote Jazz, a story of violence and passion, in 1992.
  • In 1998, she released Paradise, detailing the circumstances of a black utopian community in Oklahoma. 
  •  Love (2003) was her next piece of work that focused on love and its apparent opposite.
  • The novel A Mercy (2008) explores slavery in America during the 17th century.
  • Morrison wrote Redemption Home (2012), which follows a traumatized Korean War veteran who encounters racism after returning home and overcomes his apathy to rescue his sister.
  • In God Help the Child (2015), she chronicles the ramifications of child abuse and neglect through the tale of Bride, a black girl with dark skin who was born to light-skinned parents.

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Toni Morrison featured short stories with her son, Slade Morrison, for children, including many articles and publications. Her writing stands out for its unique perspective on black people.

What is your favorite book by Toni Morrison? Remember, “If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

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Sedi Djentuh
Sedi Djentuh
Hey, Sedi here, a content writer. She's fascinated by the interplay between people, lifestyle, relationships, tech and communication dedicated to empowering and spreading positive messages about humanity. She's an avid reader and a student of personal weekly workouts. When she's not writing, Sedi is busy advocating for plastic-free earth with her local NGO.

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