The Nobel Prize and Pulitzer winning author Toni Morrison has died at the age of 88.
Her publisher said she died on Monday night at Montefiore Medical Centre in New York after a brief illness.
In a statement, her family said: “Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends.
“She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who revelled in being with her family and friends.
“The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”
Morrison was the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature – which she was awarded in 1993.
She won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 for her novel Beloved, in which a mother makes a tragic choice to murder her baby to save the girl from slavery.
The book was adapted into a film of the same name in 1998, which starred Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
She was praised in 1993 by the Swedish academy for her “visionary force” and for her delving into “language itself, a language she wants to liberate” from categories of black and white.
She was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio as the second of four children in 1931 and was encouraged by her parents to read.
Morrison was “unimpressed” by the white children in her community, believing she was smarter and wiser.
She attended Howard University in Washington DC, where she met and married Harold Morrison, who she later divorced in 1964.
They had two children together, Harold and Slade.
In the same year she divorced her husband, she began working at the publisher Random House in the textbook division and became one of the very few black women in publishing.
Whilst there, she championed black women authors such as Gayl Jones and Toni Cade Bambara, as well as working on Muhammad Ali’s memoir, and topical books by Angela Davis and co-founder of the Black Panther movement, Huey Newton.
It was not until she was 39 that she released her first book, The Bluest Eye, at the height of the Black Arts Movement.
Morrison went on to write 10 more novels, with her last one being in 2015 called, God Help the Child.
She also wrote a number of plays, non-fiction publications and children’s books with her son during her illustrious career.
Alongside the Nobel Prize, she also received honorary degrees from Oxford, Geneva and Harvard, has been awarded the Légion d’Honneur in France, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, who was one of her notable admirers.
Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while. pic.twitter.com/JG7Jgu4p9t
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 6, 2019
Paying tribute to her, Mr Obama described Morrison as a “national treasure”.
He added: “Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while.”
In 2016, she wrote an essay called Mourning for Whiteness, in which she argued that white American’s elected Donald Trump as president to avoid losing privileges that were afforded to them by way of their race.
Source : Sky News