"Then there is loneliness
that roams. No rocking
can hold it down."

 

"Then there is loneliness that roams.
No rocking can hold it down.
It is alive, on its own.
A dry and spreading thing that makes
the sound of one's own feet going seem
to come from a far-off place."

These words from Toni Morrison's novel Beloved vividly describe how Morrison must have felt at different times of her life. Chloe Anthony Wofford was born on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. She attended Howard University, where she majored in English and minored in the classics. At Howard University she renamed herself "Toni" to avoid the constant mispronunciation of her name. Still, Morrison was disappointed with the atmosphere at Howard. She felt the students' focus was primarily on their social lives and not on their education. "It was about getting married, buying clothes and going to parties," she recalled. In 1953, she left Howard with a B.A., and in 1955, she graduated with an M.A. from Cornell University.

Morrison returned to teach English at Howard University in 1957. At this time she began to write stories and drifted into a writers' group. This came naturally to her because in her younger years her parents had constantly told and read ghost stories and tales of black ingenuity to her sister and her. Many critics believe that "both the searing accuracy of her portrayals of black life in America and the fabulistic qualities for which her work has been praised clearly derive from Morrison's own life experiences in a family of storytellers." At Howard, Morrison wrote a short story about a little black girl who wanted blue eyes. She developed this story into her first novel, The Bluest Eye. While teaching and writing stories at Howard, Morrison met and married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architectural student. But, in the 1960's she divorced and moved to Syracuse, New York with her two sons. There she began an editing job with a textbook subsidiary of Random House.

At this time Morrison finished writing and published her  novel The Bluest Eye. Afterward, she published many other novels such as Sula, Dreaming Emmett, Song of Solomon, (which won the 1978 National Book Critics' Circle Award for fiction), Tar Baby, Beloved, (which won the 1988 Pulitzer for fiction), Jazz, and Paradise.  She is also the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Essay by Dana Charles of Howard University
Design by Heidi Lauman of Montana State University


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