Author Toni Morrison, who in 1993 became the first Black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature, died Monday (August 5) at age 88, her longtime publisher Alfred A. Knopf confirmed via Twitter. No cause of death was listed at publication time, but The Associated Press reports that she died at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
We are profoundly sad to report that Toni Morrison has died at the age of eighty-eight.
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019 pic.twitter.com/DWnElCpMKc
— Alfred A. Knopf (@AAKnopf) August 6, 2019
Morrison, one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century, published 11 novels since her debut with 1969’s “The Bluest Eye,” which she said she wrote with little Black girls in mind. “I had to eliminate the White gaze,” she explained in the recently released documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.”
Morrison was very familiar with the White gaze, having worked as a book editor for years, helping to launch literary careers for Black thought leaders like Muhammad Ali, Toni Cade Bambara and Angela Davis. But Morrison transcended the gaze. When her peers saw that the woman who had just given readers the complicated “Beloved” (1986) hadn’t been awarded a national prize since the National Book Critics Circle in 1977 for “Song of Solomon,” 48 Black authors openly protested in 1988; that same year, Morrison received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
And that was just the beginning. Over a half century, the Lorain, Ohio-native, who was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, earned the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the National Humanities Medal. The world will mourn Morrison, but she leaves behind a treasure chest of Black love via the written word.
Many expressed their grief via social media:
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. pic.twitter.com/JG7Jgu4p9t
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 6, 2019
In the passing of Toni Morrison, we lost one of our greatest voices & storytellers. Holding close those touched by her being & her gift. Her work gave us power, hope & freedom. While our world shines a little less bright today, we know “something that is loved is never lost.”
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison — the life of the party. ✨ Thank you for giving life to US — to Black people — through your words.
— blackwomenradicals (@blkwomenradical) August 6, 2019
Today we remember Toni Morrison, a brave activist, feminist writer, and inspiring figure in literature whose works will transcend the test of time. Thank you for the legacy. 🖤 pic.twitter.com/I8bxuy3fbz
— UN Women (@UN_Women) August 6, 2019
“Something that is loved is never lost.”
Rest in Power Toni Morrisonhttps://t.co/a8EZ9BlJ5k
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison…after 88 prolific, impactful, creative Black girl magic years, A Queen who blessed the minds of young Black girls before woke was woke has gone on.
Long live the Queen.
— Fiyah ✊🏾 Angelou (@SweetKixx) August 6, 2019