Library Blog

It’s Toni Morrison Day!

toni-morrison-book

Today, February 18th, is author Toni Morrison’s birthday! Not only was the renowned author an Ohio native, but the state of Ohio has passed a law that designates February 18th as Toni Morrison Day to celebrate and honor her tenacity to share her literary works with the world. As if that’s not cause enough to celebrate, February is also Black History Month! Morrison was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which makes her an even more influential figure to admire. Read on to find out more about this amazing author!

Get to know Toni Morrison

Morrison was born in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, located on Lake Erie. Her given name was Chloe Anthony Wofford, and she was the second oldest of four children. In high school, Morrison was a dedicated student who enjoyed reading European literature. She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. where she majored in English, then went to Cornell University in New York where she wrote her thesis about the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner to earn her master’s degree. It was during her time at Howard that she started using the name “Toni,” short for her middle name, Anthony.

After earning her master’s, Morrison moved to Texas and became a professor at Texas Southern University, but just two years later, she returned to her alma mater, Howard University, where she taught English. While at Howard, she met Harold Morrison, an architect from Jamaica, and in 1958 they were married. Their first son was born in 1961, and following his birth, Morrison joined a writing group on campus where she began working on her first novel. Morrison left Howard in 1963 to travel with Harold and their so.  But, while travelling, Harold decided to return to Jamaica. Morrison, pregnant with their second son, moved back to Ohio in 1964 to live with her family and have the baby. One year later, Morrison and her sons moved to Syracuse, New York where she was a senior editor for a textbook publisher, and later became an editor for publishing giant Random House.

In 1970, Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published. Though sales were not great, she continued writing and had three more novels published, each one garnering more recognition and awards than the last. In 1989, Morrison became a professor at Princeton University where she worked until retirement in 2006. During her tenure at Princeton, Morrison published two more novels, and began branching out into other genres including plays, song lyrics, and children’s books.

After her retirement, Morrison published several more novels, though she shifted towards primarily producing nonfiction works at that time. Morrison also became actively involved with the fight against censorship.

Morrison’s works are praised for her use of vivid and poetic language to provide an authentic portrait of the African American experience, and many were nominated for various literary awards. Some of the awards Morrison won include a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a Nobel Prize in Literature, the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Additionally, Morrison was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York in December 2020.

At the age of 88, Morrison died in New York on August 5, 2019. While she is no longer with us, Morrison with all her accomplishments, truly is an inspiration to us all, and her legacy lives on through each of her works.

Read Toni Morrison

To celebrate Toni Morrison’s special day, why not check out one of her books? Listed below are just a few of her most popular works. If you’d like to see everything the library owns by Toni Morrison, head over to our  library’s catalog.

Children’s Books

Remember: The Journey to School Integration

Who’s Got Game? Trilogy (Audiobook available on Hoopla)

Novels

Beloved

The Bluest Eye

A Mercy

Song of Solomon

Sula

Nonfiction

Burn This Book: Notes on Literature and Engagement (eBook available on Hoopla)

The Measure of Our Lives

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

The Source of Self-regard

What Moves at the Margin

All biographical information about Toni Morrison came from Biography.com. To learn more about Toni Morrison, please utilize the library’s databases: Gale eBooks and Literary Reference Center.

Kelly M.

Kelly is an Adult Librarian in the Canfield Unit at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. She earned her Master’s in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 2019. Kelly loves all things bookish, from playing word games to dabbling with creative writing. And, of course, reading as many books as possible from all genres, though she especially enjoys romance and YA novels. Kelly also likes crafting, baking, listening to country music, and spending time with her family.