A Tribute to American Writer and Cultural Hero, Toni Morrison

by Tamu McPherson


The delight and admiration painted on the faces of those who placed the esteemed writer and cultural visionary Toni Morrison’s books into the hands of young black girls and boys for the first time expressed gratitude, pride, and hope as well as the joy of being seen in a compassionate and healing way. The act of gifting her stories was a way of arming people of color with tools to confront the inequity, hate, and violence that was thrust upon them from the time of their ancestors and beyond.


The unpacking of the trauma crafted in words so uniquely and elegantly magical worked to soothe and guide the process. That the imagination can be so rich and powerful that it guides us to feel and see things on dimensions we didn’t know possible. That is the genius of Toni Morrison which she shared so generously. Thank you for unmasking the illusions. 


On Monday, August 5th, 2019, the beloved Nobel laureate in literature, passed away at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Her words and spirit live on as she rests in paradise.


Here is a selection of our favorite Toni Morrison quotes:

  • “Something that is loved is never lost.” From Beloved
  • “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
  • “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”
  • “I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked [James] Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don’t know why I should be asked to explain your life to you. We have splendid writers to do that, but I am not one of them. It is that business of being universal, a word hopelessly stripped of meaning for me. Faulkner wrote what I suppose could be called regional literature and had it published all over the world. That’s what I wish to do. If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water. Behind this question is the suggestion that to write for black people is somehow to diminish the writing. From my perspective there are only black people. When I say ‘people,’ that’s what I mean.”
  • “Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.” From Beloved
  • “All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.”
  • “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”


Image credit: Bettmann Corbis

You may also like