Toni Morrison: The Epitome of A Strong, Intelligent, and Courageous Woman, Always Remembered
As I’m sure most of you have heard, Toni Morrison passed away at the age of 88 on Monday, August 5th. She was an exceptional writer, editor, single mom, and a very strong independent black woman.She made waves in America because of her political stances, her endorsements of writers, and her refusal to take any shit from anyone.
Toni Morrison is the reason that black women can be proud of who they are today. When interviewers would ask her dumb questions like if she was tired of being referred to a black writer rather than just a writer, she would smirk and say, “I prefer it.” She forced Americans to change the way we view race; she made the label “Black” something to be proud of.
She was the inspiration for major figures like Oprah and Sandra Guzman. In a Washington Post article Oprah recalls how she managed to get in contact with Morrison when she called the fire department to get Morrison’s unlisted phone number. This is what sparked their 20 year long friendship and allowed Morrison to appear on Oprah’s show and move thousands with her hardships about being a single mother.
Morrison talked about how her sons would complain because everytime they walked into a room, Morrison would tell them to button their shirts or comb their hair. “What I realize is that what every child really wants to know is do your eyes light up when I enter the room?” she said during that memorable interview.
Sandra Guzman was so in love with Toni Morrison and her works that Guzman created the movie about Morrison that she had always wanted to see. Guzman writes about her experience with Morrison in her article with NBC News. Guzman tells us that after her interview, Morrison asked Guzman to hand her what looked like a statue. It turned out to be a black and heavy shackle, used on slave women. “It’s light enough that you can do housework, but heavy enough that you can’t run away,” Morrison told Guzman. “I have two, one in the living room and one next to me on my night table.” Morrison made sure that we never forgot about the enslaved and how her ancestors broke into freedom.
Her novels, especially “Beloved,” heavily focus on the tragedy of slavery. Morrison doesn’t shield the gruesome or monitor the truth to spare our feelings. For example, the whole plot of “Beloved” is that the main character Sethe believes that she is being haunted by the spirit of the child that she murdered when she was caught by her master after trying to escape. In the book, Sethe is quoted saying that she was “trying to put my babies where they would be safe.” Sethe’s back story is based on a real newspaper article Morrison read from 1856. It’s horrible to think about a mother trying to kill her children because she thinks they’re safer dead, but Morrison forces us to think about it, and she makes us see the horrors of the past.
She does this more blatantly in her non-fiction works, but according to many of her students, like The New Yorker writer Troy Patterson, Morrison examined the importance of race in every single piece of writing she read. In his article, he praises Morrison for her ability to analyze any piece of fiction and find how race factors into the story in ways her class never even thought of. .
Toni Morrison has been so important in American society that she has often been called the “conscience of America.” As we all mourn her passing, it’s hard to imagine that we won’t have this strong and quirky role model around anymore. “Toni Morrison is the closest thing to a national writer,” says Guzman. “She was produced by the people because the people needed her. And today, the people need her more than ever.”
Cover image via The Ringer