Lorain, Ohio, as Chloe Ardelia (later Anthony) Wofford; grad. Howard Univ. (B.A., 1953), Cornell Univ. (M.F.A., 1955). Her fiction is noted for its poetic language, lush detail, emotional intensity, and sensitive observation of American life as viewed from a variety of African-American perspectives. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), is the story of a girl ruined by a racist society and its violence. Song of Solomon (1977; National Book Award) established her as one of America's leading novelists. It concerns a middle-class man who achieves self-knowledge through the discovery of his rural black heritage. Her later fiction includes Beloved (1987; Pulitzer Prize), a powerful account of mother love, murder, and the legacy of slavery; and Jazz (1992), a tale of love and murder set in Harlem in the 1920s. Her other novels are Sula (1973), Tar Baby (1981), Paradise (1997), and Love (2003).
Among Morrison's other works are the essay collections Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power and Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (both: 1992); several children's books, including The Big Box (2000), written with her son, Slade; a play, Dreaming Emmett (1986); a song cycle, Honey and Me (1992), written with André Previn; and an opera, Margaret Garner (2003). Awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, she is the first African American to win the coveted prize. Morrison, who was an influential editor at Random House for nearly two decades, has been a professor at Princeton Univ. since 1989 and is the founder (1994) of the Princeton Atelier, a writers' and performers' workshop.
See studies by B. W. Jones (1985) and A. I. Vinson (1985); Conversations with Toni Morrison (1994).