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Toni Morrison Dies at 88

Sharon Kyle: Morrison's life experience as a black woman born during the Jim Crow period and raised during the transition from state sanctioned segregation to socially sanctioned segregation was expressed in all of her writings.

Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist passed away at the age of 88. Morrison was suffering from an illness when she slipped away on the evening of Aug 5, 2019 surrounded by family.

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Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931, Morrison was the second of four children born to Rama and George Wofford. Her parents migrated to Ohio from the Jim Crow South during the great migration when many blacks relocated in an effort to escape the domestic terrorism perpetuated by organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.

Morrison's life experience as a black woman born during the Jim Crow period and raised during the transition from state sanctioned segregation to socially sanctioned segregation was expressed in all of her writings.

But even after escaping the South, the Wofford family would still find itself vulnerable to a system of injustice where blacks could not count on protection from police. According to Morrison, when she was about two, her family was having trouble paying the rent so their landlord set fire to the house they lived in, while they were home. Her family responded to what she called this "bizarre form of evil" by laughing at the landlord rather than falling into despair. Morrison later said her family's response demonstrated how to keep your integrity and claim your own life in the face of acts of such "monumental crudeness."

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Toni Morrison attended Howard University where she earned a B.A. in English. It was while attending Howard, in Washington D. C. that she encountered racially segregated restaurants and buses for the first time. She went on the graduate school at Cornell University where her Master's thesis was Virginia Woolf's and William Faulkner's Treatment of the Alienated.

Morrison's life experience as a black woman born during the Jim Crow period and raised during the transition from state sanctioned segregation to socially sanctioned segregation was expressed in all of her writings from books she edited, such as The Black Book (1974), an anthology of photographs, illustrations, essays, and other documents of black life in the United States from the time of slavery to the 1970s to her first novel, The Bluest Eye to Beloved which was made into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey. Her third novel, Song of Solomon, is perhaps her best known and most beloved work.

Morrison was woke. Her words helped to inform a nation. Trailblazer Toni Morrison made her mark.

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Sharon Kyle
Publisher, LA Progressive