Mass Mutual and NewsOne join together to present 28 dynamic people that make up the diverse tapestry of Black History. For the entire month of February, Black History Month, we will feature one Person of the Day and highlight their lives and achievements.
Novelist Toni Morrison (pictured) is one of the most-celebrated writers of all time, cementing her place in history as the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Morrison has also won the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2012, she was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison has won several awards for her work over the years, and has amassed a number of honorary degrees along the way.
Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. Her parents, George and Ramah, instilled in her a love of literature and music at an early age. Growing up in an integrated neighborhood, Morrison didn’t suffer the brunt of racism until she became a teenager. Graduating from high school with honors in 1949, Morrison entered Howard University.
Graduating from Howard in 1953, Morrison continued her studies at Cornell University and left with her Master’s in 1955. From there, she left to teach English at Texas Southern University. Returning to Howard in 1957 to teach English, she met Harold Morrison and the pair later married. After the birth of her son in 1961, Morrison joined a writing group on the campus and began working on her first novel.
After splitting with her husband, Morrison worked as a senior editor for a textbook publisher in upstate New York. She then took a job with major publishing company Random House as an editor.
Her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” was published in 1970. Although fans of Morrison have gone back to the book and considered it a fine work, the book didn’t sell as expected. Her second book, “Sula,” was released in 1973, later getting nominated for the American Book Award.
Although she continued to release books in between this time, it wasn’t until 1987’s “Beloved” that Morrison would receive the first of many awards coupled with rising fame. “Beloved” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was later made into a motion picture by Oprah Winfrey in 1998.
Morrison joined the faculty of Princeton University in 1989 as a professor, continuing to write while tending to her academic duties. In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for her work in the field.
Morrison’s work extends beyond fiction as she also produced children’s books and also wrote a series of plays. Her latest novel, “Home,” was published in 2012.