Chloe A. Wofford
Toni Morrison’s (Chloe Wofford) Yearbook Photograph. Courtesy of the Black River Historical Society
Toni Morrison is a noted author and educator and the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature.
Toni Morrison was born on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. Her birth name was Chloe Anthony Wofford. She spent her childhood in Lorain and left to attend college at Howard University. Upon graduating from Howard with an English degree in 1953, Morrison attended Cornell University and earned an M.A. degree in 1955.
Morrison then began a career teaching English courses at Texas Southern University and then at Howard University. In 1964, Morrison accepted a position as an editor with Random House and left college teaching for the next nineteen years.
While at Howard University, Morrison began to write fiction. In 1970, she published her first novel, The Bluest Eye. She later completed two novels entitled Sula (1973) and Song of Solomon (1977). Both of these works received critical acclaim. Song of Solomon won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award.
In 1983, Morrison left Random House and returned to teaching as the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at the State University of New York-Albany. She continued to write and completed her best known novel, Beloved, in 1987. Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel. Two years later, she became the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University. This was the first time that an African-American woman writer received a named professorship at an Ivy League institution. In 1993, she became the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.