Chloe Ardelia Wofford was born February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, and died on this day, August 5, 2019, in New York City. She was not your average. She is the literary icon we all have come to know and love and idolize as Toni Morrison—the greatest of all time to put it frankly. Her excellency has won numerous outstanding literary honors. Among them are the 1988 American Book Award and 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Beloved; the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature, which she is the first Black woman to receive, and the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Mama Morrison is sorely missed, particularly by young Black literary daughters and sons who aspire to write and walk in her shoes—specifically, by those of us who identify racially with the people, places, and politics we read between the pages. We know Pecola, Cholly, Sula and Nell, Milkman Dead, Pilate, Guitar, Sethe, Paul D, Twyla, Joe Trace, Dorcas and them. For the greater Black community, the fictional town of Ruby, from the novel Paradise, is right up the block. Mercy from the book Love is across the street and up the block. Medallion from Sula is up the way. Collectively, Black folk know a thing or two or few about trauma, oppression, lynching—and legions of Black women know about abuse, disappointment, unrequited love.
Mama Morrison wrote to and for Black folk. Every book she published was a love letter to the Black imagination, resilience and spirit. She gave us to ourselves.
Two years ago, when Mother ascended into the celestial pantheon of greatness, she left behind for us to cherish her treasure trove of rich, Black storytelling and unforgettable quotes to that speak to life
The Bluest Eye
“Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved.” —The Bluest Eye, 1970
“I don’t wanna make somebody else. I wanna make myself.” —Sula, 1973
“Black women were armed, black women were dangerous and the less money they had the deadlier the weapon they chose.” —Jazz, 1992
“Black people’s hair, in any case, was definitely alive. Left alone and untended it was like foliage and from a distance it looked like nothing less than the crown of a deciduous tree.” —Tar Baby, 1981
Song of Solomon
“She was the third beer. Not the first one, which the throat receives with almost tearful gratitude; nor the second, that confirms and extends the pleasure of the first. But the third, the one you drink because it’s there, because it can’t hurt, and because what difference does it make?” — Song of Solomon, 1977
Long live the G.O.A.T.