This Day in Ohio Birthdays: Toni Morrison

On this day in 1931, award-winning novelist Toni Morrison was born Chloe Wofford in Lorian, Ohio. She left Ohio in 1949 to attend Howard University, where she received a BA in English (and also started going by Toni). After receiving a Masters of Arts in English from Cornell University, she began teaching at Texas Southern University. In 1957, she returned to Howard as a member of the faculty. There she met husband Harold Morrison; they were married in 1958 and divorced six years later after having two children together. While at Howard, Toni met Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) and taught Stokely Carmichael and Claude Brown, who wrote literary classic Manchild in the Promised Land.

Morrison eventually became an editor at Random House in New York City in 1967. While editing books by such notable authors as Muhammad Ali and Angela Davis, she had her first novel, The Bluest Eye, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1970. But it was her second novel that established her reputation. Published in 1973, Sula was nominated for the National Book Award. Her next work, Song of Solomon, was a main selection for the Book-of-the-Month Club and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Morrison’s fifth novel, Beloved, which was published in 1987, was a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the American Book Award.

Through the years, Morrison has taught in a number of posts while continuing to write. In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Last year she received the Library of Congress National Book Festival Award for Creative Achievement. Her next novel, Home, will be published in May. She currently lives just north of New York in Grand View-on-Hudson. Today she is 81 years old.