It’s only been a mere six months since we lost legendary Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, who died on August 6, 2019. She was 88.
Today, Feb. 18, marks what would have been her 89 birthday.
Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison was 40-years-old when she published her first novel, “The Bluest Eye.” From there, her career skyrocketed, writing nearly two-dozen books (fiction and nonfiction) including her post-slavery ghost drama “Beloved,” which made her the first African-American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. That, and it was turned into a movie by Oprah Winfrey and Jonathan Demme in 1998.
In addition to winning countless awards including the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Pulitzer Prize Nobel Laureate, in 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, LitHub.com noted.
Some of her other noted novels included “Tar Baby,” “Sula,” Love and “Paradise.”
For many of us, she was an inspiration, a force and a much-needed affirmation of what it meant to be Black and live on the page. Morrison had an incredible gift of conveying the complexity of our lives—the good, the bad and the ugly—with mesmerizing and unforgettable prose. She was also never one to subscribe to respectability politics in her work making sure she tackled sexism, sexual assault, racism and class in her texts.
So to celebrate Morrison’s beautiful life and birthday, here some of the literary legend’s most empowering quotes:
1. Toni Morrison
“If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem. And my feeling is white people have a very, very serious problem, and they should start thinking about what they can do about it.”
2. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”
3. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“You wanna fly? You got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
4. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
5. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“I see your life as artful, waiting just waiting and ready for you to make it art.”
6. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“Freedom is choosing your responsibility. It’s not having no responsibilities; it’s choosing the ones you want.”
7. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
8. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.”
9. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
10. Toni Morrison
“[S]omebody said, ‘What advice would you give to young writers?’ and I said, ‘Start at 40.’”
11. Toni Morrison
“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence.”
12. Toni MorrisonSource:Getty
“There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”