Listen to Toni Morrison read from Home:
Toni Morrison, the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature , was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She was the second of four children. Her parents moved to Ohio from the South to escape racism and to find better opportunities in the North. At home, Chloe heard many songs and tales of Southern black folklore. The Woffords were proud of their heritage.
Lorain, Ohio, 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.
Toni Morrison studied humanities at Howard and Cornell Universities, followed by an academic career at Texas Southern University, Howard University, Yale, and since 1989, a chair at Princeton University. She has also worked as an editor for Random House, a critic, and given numerous public lectures, specializing in African-American literature. She made her debut as a novelist in 1970, soon gaining the attention of both critics and a wider audience for her epic power, unerring ear for dialogue, and her poetically-charged and richly-expressive depictions of Black America. A member since 1981 of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has been awarded a number of literary distinctions, among them the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.