Toni Morrison, an author whose work chronicled the black experience in America to great acclaim and widespread adulation, reportedly died Monday, August 5. She was 88.
Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Ohio after her parents moved there from Greenville, Alabama; her father had witness two black men being lynched and sought safer environs for his family.
Nicknamed Toni after Saint Anthony, she became a voracious reader and inventor of stories, enrolling in Howard University in 1949 and going on to earn her Master of Arts at Cornell.
Marrying, giving birth to two kids and divorcing, Morrison worked as a teacher and later as a textbook editor. When she became a senior fiction editor at Random House, she was the first black woman to hold such a position at the company. In that role, she brought black writers greater attention.
Her own professional writing career began in 1970, with the publication of her novel The Bluest Eye, about a black girl who longed to have blue eyes. Her second novel, 1975's Sula, garnered a National Book Award nomination, and 1977's Song of Solomon made her a household name and a best-selling author.
Following the 1981 publication of Tar Baby, Morrison published her best-known and most acclaimed work, Beloved (1987), a Pulitzer Prize-winning work that was later (1998) made into a film by, and starring Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954), her most high-profile advocate and fan.
Her other novels were Jazz (1992), Paradise (1997), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008), Home (2012) and her final published fiction, God Help the Child (2015).
The recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Morrison also published non-fiction, plays, short fiction, a libretto and children's works.
Known for her literary criticism and essays as well, it was Morrison who wrote of Bill Clinton (b. 1946) that, due to his life and his unfair treatment, he was "our first black President."
Morrison is survived by her son, Harold Ford Morrison. She was preceded in death by her son Slade Morrison, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2010.