Toni Morrison Essay Research Paper Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison Essay, Research Paper Toni Morrison, the first black woman to receive Nobel Prize in Literature, was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, U.S.A. She was the second of four children of George Wofford, a shipyard welder and Ramah Willis Wofford. Her parents moved to Ohio from the South to escape racism and to find better opportunities in the North. Her father was a hardworking and dignified man. While the children were growing up, he worked three jobs at the same time for almost 17 years. He took a great deal of pride in the quality of his work, so that each time he welded a perfect seam he’d also weld his name onto the side of the ship. He also made sure to be well-dressed, even during the Depression. Her mother was a church-going

woman and she sang in the choir. At home, Chloe heard many songs and tales of Southern black folklore. The Woffords were proud of their heritage. Lorain was a small industrial town populated with immigrant Europeans, Mexicans and Southern blacks who lived next to each other. Chloe attended an integrated school. In her first grade, she was the only black student in her class and the only one who could read. She was friends with many of her white schoolmates and did not encounter discrimination until she started dating. She hoped one day to become a dancer like her favorite ballerina, Maria Tallchief, and she also loved to read. Her early favorites were the Russian writers Tolstoy and Dostoyevski, French author Gustave Flaubert and English novelist Jane Austen. She was an excellent

student and she graduated with honors from Lorain High School in 1949. Chloe Wofford then attended the prestigious Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in English with a minor in classics. Since many people couldn’t pronounce her first name correctly, she changed it to Toni, a shortened version of her middle name. She joined a repertory company, the Howard University Players, with whom she made several tours of the South. She saw firsthand the life of the blacks there, the life her parents had escaped by moving north. Toni Wofford graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a B.A. in English. She then attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and received a master’s degree in 1955. After graduating, Toni was offered a job at Texas Southern

University in Houston, where she taught introductory English. Unlike Howard University, where black culture was neglected or minimized, at Texas Southern they “always had Negro history week” and introduced to her the idea of black culture as a discipline rather than just personal family reminiscences. In 1957 she returned to Howard University as a member of faculty. This was a time of civil rights movement and she met several people who were later active in the struggle. She met the poet Amiri Baraka (at that time called LeRoi Jones) and Andrew Young (who later worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, and later still, became a mayor of Atlanta, Georgia). One of her students was Stokely Carmichael, who then became a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Another of her students, Claude Brown, wrote Manchild in the Promised Land which was published in 1965 and became a classic of African-American literature. At Howard she met and fell in love with a young Jamaican architect, Harold Morrison. They married in 1958 and their first son, Harold Ford, was born in 1961. Toni continued teaching while helping take care of her family. She also joined a small writer’s group as a temporary escape from an unhappy married life. She needed company of other people who appreciated literature as much as she did. Each member was required to bring a story or poem for discussion. One week, having nothing to bring, she quickly wrote a story loosely based on a girl she knew in childhood who had prayed to God for blue eyes. The story was well-received