Toni Morrison

In Memoriam (1931 - 2019)
Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus

Toni Morrison joined the faculty of Princeton University in 1989 as the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities. She has also been associated with the faculty of the Program in Creative Writing, and was the founding director of the Princeton Atelier, which brings acclaimed artists together with students to create projects in a workshop environment. In 1993 Toni was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Toni Morrison received a bachelor’s degree in English from Howard University and a master’s degree in American literature from Cornell University. Before coming to Princeton to teach literature and writing, she was a senior editor at Random House for 20 years. She has held teaching posts at Yale, Bard College, and Rutgers. The New York State Board of Regents appointed her to the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at the State University of New York – Albany in 1984, a post she held until 1989. In 1988 she was the Obert C. Tanner Lecturer at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, and the Jeanette K. Watson Distinguished Professor at Syracuse University. In 1990 she delivered the Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the Massey Lectures at Harvard University. In 1994 she was the International Cordocet Chair at the Ecole Normale Superieure and College de France.

Toni has received honorary degrees from Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Ecole Normale Superieure, Georgetown, Harvard, Oberlin, Sarah Lawrence, Universite Paris 7-Denis Diderot, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. She was also the first recipient of the Washington College Literary Award in 1987 and was a New York State Governor’s Arts awards in 1986.

Other prestigious awards include the 2000 National Humanities Medal, the 2000 Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend award; the 1996 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters; the 1994 Rhegium Julii Prize for Literature; the Condorcet Medal, Paris, 1994; Pearl Buck Award. 1994; Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, Paris, 1993; the Modern Language Association of America Commonwealth Award in Literature, 1989; the Anisfield Wolf Book Award in Race Relations, 1988; the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature in 1978; and the Distinguished Writer Award of 1978 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her eight major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved Jazz, Paradise, and Love have received extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. Both novels were chosen as the main selections for the Book of the Month Club in 1977 and 1987 respectively. She was a recipient of the American Library’s 2005 Coretta Scott King Award, which honors African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults. Toni won the award for her 2004 book. Remember: The Journey to School Integration. She has also co-authored the children’s books Who’s Got Game?, Poppy or the Snake?, Who’s Got Game?, The Lion or the Mouse?, Who’s Got Game?,  The Ant or the Grasshopper?, Who’s Got Game?, The Mirror or the Glass?, The Book of Mean People, and The Big Box. Her books of essays include Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination; the edited collection Racing Justice, Engendering Power; and the co-edited collection Birth of a Nation’ hood.

Toni’s lyrics “Honey and Rue,” commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Kathleen Battle, with music by Andre Previn, premiered in January 1992; “Four Songs” with music by Previn, premiered – with Sylvia McNair – at Carnegie Hall in November 1994; “Sweet Talk.” Written for Jessye Norman with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered in April 1997; and “Woman Life Song” commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Jessye Norman with music by Judith Weir, premiered in April 2000; also, the opera “Margaret Garner,” with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered in May 2005.

Toni is a founding member of the Academie Universelle Des Culture, a trustee of the New York Public Library, and a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the International Parliament of Writers, and the Author’s Guild, where she served on the Guild Council and as foundation treasurer. She served on the National Council of the Arts for six years, and is a member of the Africa Watch and Helsinki Watch Committees on Human Rights.