We were extremely saddened by the news of Toni Morrison’s passing. She was an incredible author, educator, mother, and Princeton resident. One of our interns, Aneeqah, had heard of Toni Morrison, but shared that she hasn’t (yet) read any of her works. Many of the topics and ideas Toni Morrison wrote about resonate with us, and aligns with our mission. We had Aneeqah do some research and produce a blog post about Toni Morrison, so she could learn more about her legacy, and provide others with insight as well. Here it is:
“Toni Morrison, author, professor, and medalist, died on August 5, 2019, at the age of 88. Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford, she spent her childhood surrounded by stories and folktales, and a love of reading instilled in her by her father. Growing up in the diverse town of Lorain, Ohio meant that she was surrounded by people from many different backgrounds, and she didn’t feel the true impact of segregation until she moved to Washington, D.C. to study at Howard University. She went on to become a professor there, and later on at Princeton University as well.
Morrison’s novels explored the nuances of what it meant to be black in America, not just in the modern day but throughout history as well. One of her best-known books, “Beloved,” heartwrenchingly recounts the true story of a runaway slave who kills her young daughter to save her from the horrors of slavery. Her 1970 debut novel, “The Bluest Eye,” tells the story of a young black girl who wishes to have blue eyes, for only then, she believes, will she be beautiful. The white gaze is something that Morrison has worked tirelessly to leave out of her novels, making them an unapologetic and authentic exploration of race, hardship, family, and love.
Toni Morrison’s impact has reached far and wide, and her words touched hearts all over the world. Received with critical acclaim and widespread praise, her powerful books earned her, among other awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Prize, making her the first African-American laureate for literature.
“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate,” Toni Morrison once said. Morrison’s books provided a voice to those constantly silenced by the masses and was an honest portrayal of racism in America. She may be gone, but her legacy lives on through her books and in the people whose lives she touched.”
We’re currently participating in Rachel Cargle’s Summer Reading Series, which featured “The Bluest Eye.” She reflected on how Toni Morrison inspired her in an Instagram post, here. There is one more date in the Summer Reading Series, learn more about it here!