US novelist Toni Morrison has died aged 88 following a short illness, a friend of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author confirmed to the Associated Press on Monday night.
The news was confirmed by Mr Alfred Knopf, who confirmed Morrison's passing at Montefiore Medical Centre in New York.
From Sonny Mehta: “Toni Morrison’s working life was spent in the service of literature: writing books, reading books, editing books, teaching books. I can think of few writers in American letters who wrote with more humanity or with more love for language than Toni.” (1/2)— Alfred A. Knopf (@AAKnopf) August 6, 2019
Morrison's family members said in a statement: “Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well lived life. While we would like to thank everyone who knew and loved her, personally or through her work, for their support at this difficult time, we ask for privacy as we mourn this loss to our family.”
Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardella Wofford on 8 February 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. Her work would span fifty years and narrate the African-American experience.
Toni Morrison earned the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, the first black woman to receive the esteemed award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Colleagues at the Swedish academy lauded the author as a "visionary force" and master of language.
“Narrative has never been merely entertainment for me,” she said at her Nobel lecture. “It is, I believe, one of the principal ways in which we absorb knowledge.”
She wrote her first book "The Bluest Eye", which was published in 1970, which focused on a black girl who coveted the blue eyes of white girls, as well as the novel "Beloved" where a mother chose to murder her child to save the girl from becoming a slave, winning her the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. The book was later adapted into a movie starring US media mogul Oprah Winfrey.
Fans paid tribute to her on social media, with one calling her "one in a million" and a "representative of coloured women" who had enriched the lives of "billions of people".
RIP Tony Morrison. Our language is richer and our stories more complete and compelling thanks to her brilliant work.— Siva Vaidhyanathan🗽🤘🏽 (@sivavaid) August 6, 2019
Currently reading one of your bests; SULA. Tony Morrison, you're one of a million. Thank you for being the representative of coloured women. Thank you for the greatest novels you've ever created that me and billions of people would be able to learn and enjoy May you Rest in Peace pic.twitter.com/JtSXHakRkp— alma (@obnoxiouswoman) August 6, 2019
Tony Morrison's brief career as a librarian perfectly summarizes why I'm unable to organize my stuff. https://t.co/gGaH1sTbYo— F, Marry, Abraham (@NeverOnBrand) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison was admired by countless authors, sociologists and even former US president Barack Obama, who bestowed the laureate with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But she had cited Maya Angelou, another renowned US author speaking on the African-American experience, as one of many of her inspirations.
“Maya Angelou helped me without her knowing it,” she told AP in a 1998 interview. “When she was writing her first book, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ I was an editor at Random House. She was having such a good time, and she never said, ‘Who me? My little book?’"
I am heartbroken. But my God, what a rich, meaningful life. What a testimony of courageous love & fearlessness - she called us to do more and to be bolder in the world. Thank you, #ToniMorrison.— Well-Read Black Girl ™ (@wellreadblkgirl) August 6, 2019
Let us all find the words to say THANK YOU! Share how her work transformed you... pic.twitter.com/8BAy9zUuQp
Morrison would also write such titles as "Dreaming Emmet", a play about adolescent Emmet Till, who was brutally murdered by whites for allegedly whistling at a white woman, as well as an essay for the New Yorker on US president Donald Trump's rise to power and several children's stories on her son, Slade Morrison, who died of pancreatic cancer aged 45.
Multiple news outlets have published full obituaries paying tribute to the iconic writer and author.