Toni Morrison Timeline
How It All Went Down
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.)
Wofford enrolls at Howard University, the historically black university in Washington, D.C.
Graduates from Howard
Wofford receives her B.A. in English from Howard.
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.
Back to Howard
After two years at Texas Southern, Wofford joins the faculty at Howard University as an English instructor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Morrison publishes the novel Sula, her second novel set in a poor black neighborhood of Ohio. It is nominated for the National Book Award.
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.
Morrison's novel Tar Baby is published.
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.
Morrison accepts the Albert Schweitzer chair at the University of Albany, State University of New York.
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.
Morrison is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved.
Arrives at Princeton
Morrison accepts the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University.
Morrison publishes the novel Jazz, a story about a Southern black couple living in Harlem.
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
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.
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.
Morrison publishes the novel Paradise. Critics are hard on the novel, her first since receiving the Pulitzer Prize.
"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.
Morrison publishes a children's book called The Big Box with her son Slade.
The Book of Mean People
Slade and Toni Morrison publish a second children's book, The Book of Mean People.
Morrison publishes the novel Love. Although it receives several negative reviews, Morrison defends it as the best book she has ever written.
Morrison retires from Princeton after seventeen years of teaching at the school.
Morrison publishes A Mercy, her ninth novel.