August 08, 2019 

By Bertram Keller 

Contributing Writer 

 

This Monday, “Beloved” novelist Toni Morrison died at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, from complications of pneumonia, according to her publicist. She was 88-years-old. Born Chole Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison became one of the most prolific writers in modern literature.

 

In a statement, Morrison’s family and her publisher Alfred A. Knopf said, “She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled in being with her family and friends. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”

 

Morrison’s freedom was immeasurable through her writing. She crafted a unique use of language to depict the identity-struggle of being Black in a White society, contributing a most unique voice that will remain and impart a Black consciousness through her work.

 

Morrison studied English at Howard University and then received her Master’s at Cornell before captivating audiences through prose. At Howard University, she quietly began crafting her first book, “The Bluest Eyes” (1970), which was circulated as a literary masterpiece.

The novel confronts a deep-rooted perspective regarding African American’s association of whiteness and beauty. In the novel Morrison wrote, “You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source.

 

Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction.” Morrison challenged readers to question these convictions, explore their individual subconscious, and dissociate physical characteristics; such as, pigmentation with predetermined beauty.

 

In an essay for The New Yorker, titled “Mourning for Whiteness,” Morrison addressed the nation’s attachment to the Whiteness in Trump’s America stating, “Personal debasement is not easy for White people (especially for White men), but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others — especially to Black people — they are willing to risk contempt and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong. If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause.”

 

Morrison empowered African Americans to question the perpetuated racial judgement fashioned by mainstream American culture. 

 

Her work speaks to the unheard breath of the clandestine moral aspects of the human psyche of the mainstream that does not fairly represent African Americans. Morrison created a new way of thinking, an honest observation that writers can use in narrative discourse, regardless of their color.

 

 

 

 

Former President Barack Obama took to Twitter to pay his respect to Morrison, writing, “Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating in person as she was on the page. Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while.” In 2012, President Obama bestowed Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — a meritorious contribution to the national interests of the United States, world peace, and further significant public endeavors.

 

The author of 11 novels, including “The Bluest Eye" (1970), “Beloved” (1987), and “Song of Solomon” (1977), Morrison was an activist, literary critic, editor, publisher, and great thinker. She was a recipient of the most prestigious awards; including, the Pulitzer Prize (1988) for “Beloved” (1987), an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University (2005), and she was the first African American woman awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature (1993). Among the illustrious names, Morrison helped publish Black authors, such as, Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali.

 

Oprah Winfrey directed her public condolences via Instagram, stating, “In the beginning was the Word.


 

Toni Morrison Took the word and Turned it into a Song… of Solomon (1977), of Sula (1973), Beloved (1987), Mercy (2008), Paradise Love (2012), and more. She was our conscience. Our seer. Our truth-teller. She was a magician with language, who understood the Power of words. She used them to roil us, to wake us, to educate us and help us grapple with our deepest wounds and try to comprehend them. It is exhilarating and life-enhancing every time I read and share her work.”

 

In October 1996, Oprah selected “Song of Solomon” as the second book for Oprah’s book club segment on the Oprah Winfrey’s Show.

Following Oprah’s endorsement, Morrison’s sales increased, projecting her to a household name while commencing a 30-year friendship between the two.

 

The loss of Toni Morrison is heartbreaking to the Back community, literary arts and great thinkers alike. Particularly, in today’s world of social media, Morrison was our moral compass; she spoke her reality in America with elegance and without fear of consequence.

 

 

She spoke with the hopeful intentions to inspire positive change for the Black community and overall humanity, with an imposing tone of wisdom. 

 

 

 

 

Morrison’s impactful writings will live on for generations to come. Though, you may have a heavy heart, remember the words of Morrison: “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

 

 

 

 

Category: Arts & Culture


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