This Black History Month, I am sharing 28 stories of Black women who shaped me and showed me the way towards liberation. Because Black women are often not cited for their ideas, I thought this would be one way to give flowers to those who influenced me.
On Day 23, I would like to celebrate Toni Morrison and her mighty pen.
Toni Morrison was born in Ohio, and earned degrees from Howard University and Cornell University She wrote 11 books and countless essays and articles. In 1993, she became the first Black woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize. (https://www.npr.org/2019/08/06/542391535/toni-morrison-whose-soaring-novels-were-rooted-in-black-lives-dies-at-88)
Ms. Morrison could write, y’all. I first encountered Toni Morrison’s writing when I was in high school. I was fed up that our school curriculum was overflowing with books by white writers with no books from authors who looked like me. I became quite vocal about that frustration in English class, arguing daily that we should be reading other writers. Finally after my parents and I pleaded my case with administrators, I was given the right to read other books for class. My mom gave me The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison to read. It was Toni Morrison’s first book, and she has said she wrote it because it was a book she wanted to read and it didn’t exist. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/25/toni-morrison-books-interview-god-help-the-child) Reading that book took my breath away. Toni Morrison’s stories about Black women and girls was everything I was missing from the curriculum created by my teachers.
Toni Morrison’s writing is mesmerizing. I’m currently reading The Source of Self Regard, which is a collection of essays and speeches Morrison wrote. I find myself stopping often to re-read passages several times because the way Ms. Morrison weaves words together, requires you to slow down and luxuriate in her artistry and power. She tells the truth and shames the devil with such beauty, precision, and conviction, that you are rocked to your core when you read it.
In addition to being a phenomenal writer, Toni Morrison used her power to help propel the careers of other Black authors. Ms. Morrison was an editor at Random House, and is credited for helping the careers of Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, and Henry Dumas. Her approach to editing aimed to protect the writers she worked with, set them up for success, and treat them with abundant care. Her approach was the embodiment of solidarity in action. (https://zora.medium.com/toni-morrison-as-an-editor-changed-book-publishing-forever-5b6127a40afa)
Thank you, Toni Morrison, for creating worlds and stories where Black women and girls could see themselves and for acting in solidarity with other Black writers so our world could have more color. #28LoveLetterstoBlackWomen #BlackHistoryMonth2023 #Day23
Photo credit: From dust jacket: "Photograph: Bert Andrews", Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Image Description: Black and white headshot of Toni Morrison.