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Timeline

Feb 18, 1931

Toni Morrison Born

Chloe Ardelia Wofford is born in Lorain, Ohio, the second of four children born to George and Ramah Willis Wofford. (Toni Morrison, the name by which she is later widely known, is a mix of a college nickname and her married name.)

1949

Starts College

Wofford enrolls at Howard University, the historically black university in Washington, D.C.

1953

Graduates from Howard

Wofford receives her B.A. in English from Howard.

1955

Earns Graduate Degree

Wofford is awarded a master's degree in English from Cornell. Her thesis examines the appearance of suicide in the novels of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. She receives a teaching position at Texas Southern University in Houston.

1957

Back to Howard

After two years at Texas Southern, Wofford joins the faculty at Howard University as an English instructor.

1958

Marriage

Wofford marries Harold Morrison, a fellow faculty member at Howard. Though the couple has two sons, the marriage to the Jamaican-born architect is troubled.

1964

Divorce

Morrison and her husband Harold divorce. Soon after, Morrison moves to Syracuse, New York and takes a position as a textbook editor in order to support herself and her two sons.

1968

 

Morrison moves to New York City to work as an editor for Random House. She takes special interest in the works of female African-Americans like Toni Cade Bambera, and is instrumental into bringing their books to print.
1970

The Bluest Eye

Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye, is published. Morrison writes the book, the story of a young black girl who yearns to be white, at night while her sons are sleeping.

1973

Sula

Morrison publishes the novel Sula, her second novel set in a poor black neighborhood of Ohio. It is nominated for the National Book Award.

1977

Song of Solomon

Morrison publishes Song of Solomon, her first novel told from the perspective of a man. It is the first Book-of-the-Month Club main selection by a black writer since Richard Wright's Native Son 37 years earlier. The book also receives the National Book Critics Circle Award.

1981

Tar Baby

Morrison's novel Tar Baby is published.

1983

Leaves Random House

Morrison leaves Random House after fifteen years as an editor to devote more time to writing and her frequent college teaching positions.

1984

Professorship

Morrison accepts the Albert Schweitzer chair at the University of Albany, State University of New York.

1987

Beloved

Morrison publishes the novel Beloved to overwhelming critical and commercial success. When the book fails to win National Book Award, 48 black writers and literary critics publish a letter of protest in the New York Times Book Review.

1988

Pulitzer Prize

Morrison is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved.

1989

Arrives at Princeton

Morrison accepts the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University.

1992

Jazz

Morrison publishes the novel Jazz, a story about a Southern black couple living in Harlem.

Oct 7, 1993

Nobel Prize

Toni Morrison becomes the eighth woman and the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. In bestowing the prize, the Nobel committee says that Morrison's novels are "characterized by visionary force and poetic import."35

Dec 25, 1993

Fire Destroys Home

Morrison's home in Rockland County, New York, burns to the ground on Christmas Day in an accidental fire. Though some of her manuscripts are salvaged from the fire, Morrison is devastated by the loss of decades' worth of photographs, mementos and family heirlooms.

1996

Gives Jefferson Lecture

The National Endowment for the Humanities grants Morrison the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. government's highest honor for the humanities. She also receives the National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

1997

Paradise

Morrison publishes the novel Paradise. Critics are hard on the novel, her first since receiving the Pulitzer Prize.

Oct 5, 1998

"First Black President"

Morrison publishes a piece in The New Yorker during the impeachment scandal of President Bill Clinton, comparing his treatment to that of African-Americans. The sentence calling Clinton "the first black president"36 is widely misinterpreted.

1999

Children's Book

Morrison publishes a children's book called The Big Box with her son Slade.

2002

The Book of Mean People

Slade and Toni Morrison publish a second children's book, The Book of Mean People.

2003

Love

Morrison publishes the novel Love. Although it receives several negative reviews, Morrison defends it as the best book she has ever written.

2006

Retirement

Morrison retires from Princeton after seventeen years of teaching at the school.

2008

A Mercy

Morrison publishes A Mercy, her ninth novel.

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