Toni Morrison is among the most acclaimed African American authors in U.S. history. In 1993, she became the first African American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She also received a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931. Even at an early age, she showed a love of literature and reading, going on to major in English and classics and Howard University and to get her master’s degree from Cornell in 1955. Her thesis focused on the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, both of whose literary influences can be seen in her work.

Morrison’s novels feature African-American protagonists and span the length of U.S. history, from the colonial period (A Mercy) to the Civil War (Beloved) to the Korean war (Home). In addition to her novels, she has also published a work of literary criticism—Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination—a collection of essays and speeches, several children’s books, as well as the libretto for the opera Margaret Gardner in 2005.

Morrison taught throughout her career and was a professor at Princeton University from 1989 until 2006. A prolific writer, Morrison continues to produce work, publishing a novella as recently as 2015.

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