Toni Morrison


1931

18 February: Chloe Ardelia Wofford is born in Lorain, Ohio, the second of four children born to George and Ramah Willis Wofford. (Toni Morrison, the name by which she is later widely known, is a mix of a college nickname and her married name.)

1949

Wofford enrolls at Howard University, the historically black university in Washington, D.C.

1953

Wofford receives her BA in English from Howard.

1955

Wofford is awarded an MA in English from Cornell. Her thesis examines the appearance of suicide in the novels of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.

Accepts a teaching position at Texas Southern University in Houston.

1957

After two years at Texas Southern, Wofford joins the faculty at Howard University as an English instructor.

1958

Wofford marries Harold Morrison, a fellow faculty member at Howard. Though the couple has two sons, the marriage to the Jamaican-born architect is troubled.

1964

TM and Harold divorce. Soon after, TM moves to Syracuse and takes a position as a textbook editor in order to support herself and her two sons.

1968

TM moves to New York City to work as an editor for Random House. She takes special interest in the works of female African-Americans like Toni Cade Bambera, and is instrumental in bringing their books to print.

1970

The Bluest Eye, her first novel, is published. TM writes the book, the story of a young black girl who yearns to be white, at night while her sons are sleeping.

1973

Sula is published. It is set in a poor black neighborhood in Ohio. It is nominated for the National Book Award.

1977

Song of Solomon is published. It is her first novel told from the perspective of a man. It is the first Book-of-the-Month Club main selection by a black writer since Richard Wright's Native Son 37 years earlier. The book also receives the National Book Critics Circle Award.

1981

Tar Baby is published.

1983

TM leaves Random House after fifteen years as an editor to devote more time to writing and her frequent college teaching positions.

1984

TM accepts the Albert Schweitzer chair at the University of Albany, State University of New York.

1987

Beloved is published to overwhelming critical and commercial success. When the book fails to win National Book Award, 48 black writers and literary critics publish a letter of protest in the New York Times Book Review.

1988

TM is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved.

1989

TM accepts the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University.

1992

Jazz, a story about a Southern black couple living in Harlem, is published.

1993

TM becomes the eighth woman and the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. In bestowing the prize, the Nobel committee says that Morrison's novels are "characterized by visionary force and poetic import."

25 December: TM's home in Rockland County, New York, burns to the ground on Christmas Day in an accidental fire. Though some of her manuscripts are salvaged from the fire, Morrison is devastated by the loss of decades' worth of photographs, mementos, and family heirlooms.

1996

The National Endowment for the Humanities grants TM the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. government's highest honor for the humanities.

TM receives the National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

1997

Paradise is published. Critics are hard on the novel, her first since receiving the Pulitzer Prize.

1998

TM publishes a piece in The New Yorker during the impeachment scandal of President Bill Clinton, comparing his treatment to that of African-Americans. The sentence calling Clinton "the first black president" is widely misinterpreted.

1999

TM publishes a children's book, The Big Box, with her son Slade.

2002

Slade and TM publish a second children's book, The Book of Mean People.

2003

Love is published. Although it receives several negative reviews, TM defends it as the best book she has ever written.

2006

TM retires from Princeton after seventeen years of teaching at the school.

2008

A Mercy is published.

2012

Home is published.