For The People

Beloved, Toni Morrison

Described as the “writer of black people” she was a teacher, writer, poet and librettist. She wrote her first novel “The Bluest Eye” while she was a single parent with two kids after her divorce. She woke up every morning at 4:00am before going to work in order to complete this book. The idea for this book came from a childhood memory of her African American classmate who longed to have blue eyes. She was only twelve years old at the time but Toni understood the cultural influences that made Africans despise what they looked like. Her writing career didn’t start with smooth sailing, the writer struggled to get her book published for several years and only after many rejections was the book was published in 1970 where it received tremendous attention and was decorated with the 1977 National Book Critics Circle Award.

She went on to write her second book titled, Sula which was nominated for the 1975 National Book Award in Fiction followed by Song of Solomon and several other novels, speeches, essays and children’s books. Her novel “Beloved” earned her the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was also adapted into a film in 1998. This potent novel is based on a true story and narrates the story of a runaway slave, Margaret Garner. As she was about to be captured, the slave killed her infant daughter in an attempt to spare her from a life of slavery. This book shows the massacres, depravities and cruelties of slavery experienced by Africans and the powerful mental hold it still has on Africans in the present day. In 2006 this novel was selected by New York Times as the best American fiction writing in a quarter of a century. Toni Morrison’s versatility as writer shines in a libretto she wrote in 2005, which was based on her book “Beloved”.

“Because slave life had busted her legs, back, head, eyes, hands, kidneys, womb and tongue, she had nothing left to make a living with but her heart –  which she put to work at once” (Toni Morrison, Beloved: 102).

Tony Morrison grew up in Ohio, Lorain and was born in 1931 February 18th. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English at Howard University in 1952 and in 1955 she went on to complete her Master’s Degree at Cornell University, which was focused on the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. She worked for several universities in America, and also worked as an editor for Random House for more than 20 years. During that time she mentored and helped some African writers like Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara and Gayl Jones make their mark in the literary domain.

“I want to write for people like me, black people, curios people, demanding people, people who can’t be faked, people who don’t need to be patronised, people who have high criteria”.

In 1993 she was awarded a prestigious international recognition award that every writer dreams of, the Noble Prize for literature which made her the second American woman to receive such an award. In 2012 President Barack Obama presented the writer with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Toni grew up with songs, stories, music and fairy tales as well as the practice of the African American heritage of listening to stories told by her parents. This resulted in her telling her own stories from a young age, which contributed to her intense love for literature. Her parents always encouraged her passion for reading, and learning.

The legendary writer is well known for her vivid, imaginative and artistic writing. She has succeeded in making the world think about the common social problems that exists like racial discrimination and white supremacy. Her work shows just how history can shape the world’s future and people’s perceptions. In her writings she narrates her own and other African Americans experiences of what it is and was like to be black in America. The world renowned writer met her death at the age of 88 on the 5th of August 2019.

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