Beloved: Biography: Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. Her parents were from the South and migrated north early in the twentieth century. Chloe was the first woman in her family to attend college, matriculating at Howard University, a historically black university. While there, she changed her name to Toni because it was easier for people to pronounce. Only when she was in college did she see the South for the first time, and this helped her get in touch with her family's roots. Although she was born in the North, much of her writing reflects this southern heritage. In 1955, she earned an M.A. in English from Cornell University.

In 1958, she married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect. The marriage lasted until 1964 and produced two children, in addition to giving the budding author a new last name. After her divorce, Morrison moved to Syracuse, New York, to become a textbook editor. In 1968, she moved to New York City, where she became an important trade book editor for Random House, promoting the work of promising young black writers.

In 1970, Morrison published her first book, The Bluest Eye. She wrote two more novels in the 1970s, Sula and Song of Solomon. She also did some research for another project that led her to read a newspaper account of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave who killed her child in the 1850s when she was tracked down by authorities in Ohio. Although Morrison did not use this story for over fifteen years, it eventually became the seed of Beloved, her fifth novel, published in 1987. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 and was made into a motion picture in 1998.

Morrison has not been content to rest on her laurels. In 1989, she became a professor at Princeton University, a position she retains today. In 1993, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. She has written a total of eight novels, as well as writing or editing several works of non-fiction.