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Toni Morrison February 18, 1931

Toni Morrison, the first black woman to receive Nobel Prize in Literature, was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, U.S.A. She was the second of four children of George Wofford, a shipyard welder and Ramah Willis Wofford. Her parents moved to Ohio from the South to escape racism and to find better opportunities in the North. Chloe Wofford attended the prestigious Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in English with a minor in classics. Since many people couldn't pronounce her first name correctly, she changed it to Toni, a shortened version of her middle name. She joined a repertory company, the Howard University Players, with whom she made several tours of the South. She saw firsthand the life of the blacks there, the life her parents had escaped by moving north. Toni Wofford graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a B.A. in English. She then attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and received a master's degree in 1955. In 1957 she returned to Howard University as a member of faculty. This was a time of civil rights movement and she met several people who were later active in the struggle. One of her students was Stokely Carmichael, who then became a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Another of her students, Claude Brown, wrote Manchild in the Promised Land which was published in 1965 and became a classic of African-American literature. At Howard she met and fell in love with a young Jamaican architect, Harold Morrison. They married in 1958 and their first son, Harold Ford, was born in 1961. Toni continued teaching while helping take care of her family. She also joined a small writer's group as a temporary escape from an unhappy married life. She needed company of other people who appreciated literature as much as she did. Each member was required to bring a story or poem for discussion. One week, having nothing to bring, she quickly wrote a story loosely based on a girl she knew in childhood who had prayed to God for blue eyes. The story was well-received by the group and then Toni put it away thinking she was done with it. Her marriage deteriorated, and while pregnant with their second child she left her husband, left her job at the university, and took her son on a trip to Europe. Later, she divorced her husband and returned to her parents' house in Lorain with her two sons. In 1967 she became a senior editor at Random House in New York. While editing books by prominent black Americans like Muhammad Ali, Andrew Young and Angela Davis, she was busy sending her own novel to various publishers. The Bluest Eye was eventually published in 1970 to much critical acclaim, although it was not commercially successful. Morrison soon started writing her second novel where she focused on a friendship between two adult black women. Sula was published in 1973. From 1976-1977, she was a visiting lecturer at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She was also writing her third novel. This time she focused on strong black male characters. Her insight into male world came from watching her sons. Song of Solomon was published in 1977. It won the National Book Critic's Circle Award and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Morrison was also appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the National Council on the Arts. In 1981 she published her fourth novel, Tar Baby, where for the first time she describes interaction between black and white characters. Her picture appeared on the cover of the March 30, 1981 issue of the Newsweek magazine. Morrison's next novel, Beloved, was influenced by a published story about a slave, Margaret Garner, who in 1851 escaped with her children to Ohio from her master in Kentucky. When she was about to be re-captured, she tried to kill her children rather than return them to life of slavery. Only one of her children died and Margaret was imprisoned for her deed. She refused to show remorse, saying she was "unwilling to have her children suffer as she had done." Beloved was published in 1987 and was a bestseller. In 1988 it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 1987, Toni Morrison was named the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of Humanities at Princeton University. She became the first black woman writer to hold a named chair at an Ivy League University. While accepting, Morrison said, "I take teaching as seriously as I do my writing." She taught creative writing and also took part in the AfricanAmerican studies, American studies and women's studies programs. She also started her next novel, Jazz, about life in the 1920's. The book was published in 1992. In 1993, Toni Morrison received the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the eighth woman and the first black woman to do so. On 29 May 2012, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Other works include: Paradise (1997), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008), and Home (2012). US.5.4: Describe the role and importance of the Civil Rights movement in the expansion of opportunities for African Americans in the United States

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