This Nobel Prize-winning author, editor, and professor is considered one of the best contemporary novelists of our time.
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison was the second of four children in a working-class family. Displayed an early interest in literature, Morrison read constantly; among her favorite authors were Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. Morrison's father, George Wofford, a welder by trade, told her numerous folktales of the black community (a method of storytelling that would later work its way into Morrison's writings).
Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 and continued her education at Cornell University where she received a master of fine arts degree in 1955. After graduating from Cornell, she taught English at Texas Southern University and at Howard University. She left academia in 1965, taking a job as a senior editor for Random House in New York City.
Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970 and told the story of a young African-American girl who believes her incredibly difficult life would be better if only she had blue eyes. She continued to explore the African-American experience in its many forms and time periods in such works as Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), and Beloved (1987), which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Morrison developed a strong following among both readers and critics whom fell for her lyrical style, sharp observations, and vibrant storytelling.
Morrison became a professor at Princeton University in 1989 and continued to produce great works. In recognition of her contributions to her field, she received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African American to be selected for the award.
Toni Morrison went on to publish several additional novels and wrote several children's books, including The Big Box (1999), The Book of Mean People (2002), and The Ant or the Grasshopper? (2003), with her son Slade. She also established a special workshop for writers and performers known as the Princeton Atelier.
In 2006, she announced she was retiring from her post at Princeton. That year, the New York Times Book Review named Beloved the best novel of the past 25 years.