Nobel Prize-Winning Author Toni Morrison Dead at 88

One of the most acclaimed American writers of the 20th century

Toni Morrison dead at 88 (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Toni Morrison dead at 88 (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
By Carl Caminetti / August 6, 2019 9:38 am

Toni Morrison, the last American author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, has died at the age of 88 according to her publisher, Knopf.

One of the most acclaimed authors of the last 50 years, Morrison’s career in the literary world started in 1965 when she took a job as an editor at a textbook division of Random House. In 1967, she was moved to the publishing house’s fiction department, where she was instrumental in getting black writers a little bit of the spotlight that had been held back from them for so long, from Chinua Achebe to Angela Davis. She published her first novel in 1970 at the age of 39, The Bluest Eye. Over her career she published nearly a dozen novels, playing with everything from history to the supernatural, books for children, plays and an impressive body of nonfiction. She even wrote a libretto for an opera.

One of the most decorated American authors of the 20th century, she won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 for Beloved, was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 1996 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. In 1998, a film adaptation of Beloved, starring Oprah Winfrey, was released. Her papers are part of the permanent library at Princeton University.

“Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names,” she said in her 1993 Nobel lecture.  “Language alone is meditation.”

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