Contemporary Black American Fiction Writers

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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Toni Morrison
b. 1931

TONI MORRISON was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931, the second of four children of George Wofford, a shipyard welder, and his wife Ramah Willis Wofford. After attending Lorain High School, she went to Howard University, where she earned a B.A. in 1953, with a major in English and a minor in classics. She joined the Howard University Players and in the summer toured the South with a student‐ faculty repertory troupe.

After securing an M.A. at Cornell in 1955, Morrison taught for two years at Texas Southern University, then in 1957 returned to Howard, where she became an instructor of English and married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect. In 1964 she divorced Morrison and returned with her two sons to Lorain; a year and a half later she became an editor for a textbook subsidiary of Random House in Syracuse. By 1970 she had moved to an editorial position at Random House in New York, where she eventually became senior editor. In this capacity she anonymously edited The Black Book ( 1974), a collection of documents relating to the history of black Americans. Morrison has taught black American literature and creative writing at two branches of the State University of New York (Purchase and Albany), as well as at Yale University, Bard College, and Trinity College, Cambridge. She is currently Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University.

Toni Morrison began to write when she returned to Howard in 1957, and since then she has published several novels in which the problems of black women in the Midwest are a major theme. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye ( 1970), draws upon her childhood in Lorain by depicting the lives of several young women, one of whom, Pecola, comes to believe that blue eyes are a symbol of whiteness and, therefore, of superiority. Sula ( 1973), set in the mythical town of Medallion, Ohio, has an even tougher edge, addressing issues of both racial and gender equality in its portrayal of the contrasting lives of two young women, one of whom settles down to middle‐

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