American author and Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison was born on this day in history, Feb. 18, 1931.
Morrison was born the second of four children in Lorain, Ohio, and was given the birth name Chloe Anthony Wofford, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
As a child, Morrison focused on her studies and became an avid reader.
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She was a member of her school’s debate team and yearbook staff and went on to become the head librarian at the Lorain Public Library.
Morrison converted to Catholicism at the age of 12 and was baptized under the name Anthony after Saint Anthony of Padua — taking the nickname Toni, the National Women’s History Museum reports.
In 1949, Morrison moved to Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University, a historically Black college.
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Morrison frequently toured the then-racially segregated south with the university’s theatrical group called the Howard University Players.
Morrison graduated with her bachelor’s degree in English and furthered her education at Cornell University where she earned her Master of Arts degree in English.
After graduating in 1955, Morrison went on to teach English at Texas Southern University, but then returned to teach at Howard University.
Upon returning to her alma mater, Morrison taught civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael and met her husband, Harold Morrison.
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Morrison taught at Howard for seven years before accepting a job as an editor for textbooks at Random House publishing in Syracuse, New York.
Two years later, Morrison moved to the company’s New York City branch and began editing fiction and books written by Black authors.
Morrison published her first book, “The Bluest Eye,” at 39 years old in 1970.
This book was followed by her second novel, “Sula,” and her third, “Song of Solomon,” in 1977, which turned Morrison into a household name, according to the museum.
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In 1987, Morrison released her novel, “Beloved,” based on the true story of an enslaved woman.
This book was a bestseller for 25 consecutive weeks — and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Morrison became the first Black woman to be presented with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
She was also honored with the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters three years later.
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“Beloved” was adapted into a film in 1998, starring major players like Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandiwe Newton and Kimberly Elise.
While continuing her writing career, Morrison worked as a professor in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University and wrote children’s books with her son.
Morrison received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, according to the museum, and was consistently praised for her work.
In 2000, the Library of Congress named Morrison a Living Legend, the National Women’s History Museum reports.
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She also earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 — the same month she published her last book with her son.
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Morrison died on August 5, 2019, in New York after complications with pneumonia.