Nobel laureate and celebrated, best-selling author Toni Morrison died Monday at the age of 88 from complications of pneumonia. Much of her writing focused on the female black experience in America, and her writing style honored the rhythms of black oral tradition. As an editor, she is widely credited with helping widen the literary stage for African Americans and feminists. Toni Morrison wrote 11 novels and was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Her widely acclaimed novel “Beloved,” about a slave who escaped a Kentucky plantation, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and was later turned into a feature film with Oprah Winfrey. In 2012, President Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
This is an excerpt from a conversation between Toni Morrison and Cornel West at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in 2004.
Toni Morrison: “This melancholy that I feel now is about a country like this, with the best shot in the world — the best shot in the world — at this moment, at this time, with a certain kind of plenitude and intelligence and ambition and generosity, and some history from which to learn, could indeed throw it away, in a sense, and become the worst parts of its own self.”
After headlines, we’ll take a closer look at Toni Morrison’s legacy, with her friends and colleagues Angela Davis, Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez.