Toni Morrison, one of the most prolific voices of a generation died on Monday night. She was 88-years-old.
A source from Morrison’s publisher at Knopf confirmed her death, according to a report by Vulture. The cause of death is unknown.
Born Chloe Ardella Wofford in Lorrain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931, Morrison became the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for her stirring portrayal of sacrifice in her fifth novel Beloved. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, becoming the first Black person and woman of any race to receive the honor.
Throughout her career Morrison wrote books focused away from what she called “the white gaze.” Taking stories about Black life, turning them into masterful pieces of writing that gave voice to a people whose stories were often left out of the American literary cannon. Her life’s work of writing professionally which began at the age of 39, spanned generations of Black American history including, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Jazz, Song of Solomon and her last work, The Source of Self-Regard.
Morrison was not only explicit with the nuances of what it meant to be a Black person in America, but her novels and essays highlighted Black womanhood and paid homage to what it meant to walk in the world as a Black woman. In 2012 President Barack Obama awarded Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor.
In June a documentary titled, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, directed by one of her close comrades Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, gave more insight on Morrison, her motivations as an artist and her continuous fight in remaining steadfast and committed to archiving Black American life. The title was taken from a quote in Beloved: “The pieces I am, she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.”
But Morrison was also a devoted mother to two sons and often found the time to write in between caring for her family and working full-time.
Morrison was also nurturer of young Black writers. During her tenure as an editor at Random House she helped hone the voices of several writers and activists including Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, and Angela Davis.
With her words Morrison changed the landscape for so many Black writers and those who were continuously told that their history and lives did not matter. May one of the greatest writers of all time rest peacefully knowing that she fulfilled her calling on this earth.