Toni Morrison — the acclaimed author of 11 novels, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature — is being remembered today following news of her death at age 88.
Morrison, who died in New York City on Monday after a brief illness, was perhaps best known for Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 but had a long list of celebrated works also including poems and children’s books. Considered a pioneer, she wrote about the lives of African Americans, once saying, “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."
Morrison’s words touched many lives and the tributes from famous folks have been flowing in. Oprah Winfrey, who was so touched by Beloved she made it a movie (and starred in it), remembered the “Empress-Supreme among writers.” She said Morrison “was our conscience. Our seer. Our truth-teller. She was a magician with language, who understood the Power of words. She used them to roil us, to wake us, to educate us and help us grapple with our deepest wounds and try to comprehend them.”
Former President Obama — who has spoken of the impact Morrison’s Song of Solomon has had on him — shared a photo from when he presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and called her a “national treasure.” He said it was a “gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while.”
Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while. pic.twitter.com/JG7Jgu4p9t— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 6, 2019
Newsman Dan Rather said our “American story has a lost a singular and courageous voice.” He also talked about the “prejudices of her nation” Morrison had to overcome “to claim a rightful place among the greats of American letters.”
Our American story has lost a singular and courageous voice. Toni Morrison had to overcome the founding prejudices of her nation to claim a rightful place among the greats of American letters. The brilliance of her mind and spirit will live on in her words. May she rest in peace.— Dan Rather (@DanRather) August 6, 2019
Prime-time powerhouse Shonda Rhimes said she grew up “wanting to be her.” And it is because of Morrison that Rhimes she came to “understand ‘writer’ was a fine profession.”
She made me understand“writer” was a fine profession. I grew up wanting to be only her. Dinner with her was a night I will never forget. Rest, Queen. “Toni Morrison, seminal author who stirringly chronicled the Black American experience, dies” https://t.co/S6qxix5OCj— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) August 6, 2019
Joy Reid, host of AM Joy on MSNBC, said that Morrison “made me fall in love with words” and “used them with greater skill and artistry than anyone I’ve ever read.” She said Morrison “was to writing what Aretha was to music.”
Oh no...no no no...— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison made me fall in love with words-she used them with greater skill and artistry than anyone I've ever read. She was to writing what Aretha was to music. Those who were lucky enough to know or meet her I'm so sorry & so envious. She was everything. https://t.co/vS7dY1ThAa
Actress Gabrielle Union said Morrison’s “words were like mirrors to our collective souls. Like pillows to cushion the blows. Like mothers to wrap us in love. Like friends to hold our hands and see us through the darkness.”
Her words were like mirrors to our collective souls. Like pillows to cushion the blows. Like mothers to wrap us in love. Like friends to hold our hands and see us through the darkness. #RipToniMorrison ❤ you. May we lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there.— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) August 6, 2019
Likewise, actress Kerry Washington wrote that she “cannot imagine growing up in a world without her words.”
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) August 6, 2019
I cannot imagine growing up in a world without her words. I pray you rest In Peace and in Power.
We will celebrate you with endless gratitude and love. Always.
Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris used a Morrison quote — “something that is loved is never lost” in her tribute:
In the passing of Toni Morrison, we lost one of our greatest voices & storytellers. Holding close those touched by her being & her gift. Her work gave us power, hope & freedom. While our world shines a little less bright today, we know "something that is loved is never lost."— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 6, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote about Morrison’s “unmatched empathy, elegance and power.”
Today, the world lost a storyteller of unmatched empathy, elegance and power. Toni Morrison’s belief that language is the “measure of our lives” leaves an extraordinary, inspiring inheritance, and her beautiful writing will continue to be a blessing for generations to come. pic.twitter.com/cc3st7x2lM— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 6, 2019
And Hillary Clinton wrote that we “are all so lucky to live in a world where” Morrison took her own advice — about writing what isn’t written yet — “and shared it with others.
"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," Toni Morrison said.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 6, 2019
We are all so lucky to live in a world where she took her own advice and shared it with others.
Here are some more of the tributes:
“If you look at the world as a brutal game, then you bump into the mystery of the tree-shaped scar. There seems to be such a thing as grace, such a thing as beauty, such a thing as harmony. All of which are wholly free and available to us.” Your life was our gift, #ToniMorrison pic.twitter.com/wcD7w9zKYp— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 6, 2019
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Toni Morrison. I’m deeply sadden to share that one of our greatest writers and minds in American History, Toni Morrison, passed away at the age of 88. May God Bless Her Soul. pic.twitter.com/Dq1UL4ENIY— COMMON (@common) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison. While you have left the physical realm, the many treasures you left us will bear fruit for generations and generations. Your work has cascaded through my life deeply and simply...rest in power to a beloved icon. pic.twitter.com/YQPS3gR5Ml— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison was a towering intellect, a brilliant scribe of our nation’s complex stories, a heartbreaking journalist of our deepest desires, and a groundbreaking author who destroyed precepts, walls and those who dared underestimate her capacity. Rest well and in peace. pic.twitter.com/nMkxXRtEoz— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison will always be one of the greatest of all times. A culture changer. A literary monarch. She was a force that made readers see life through her eyes...our eyes. Thank you God for her unapologetic style. She shared it with grace. Rest In Power💜— Regina King (@ReginaKing) August 6, 2019
I just assumed Ms. Morrison would live forever. And in so many ways in so many hearts and minds and spirits, she will. pic.twitter.com/jYQSs0DMd6— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison will be remembered as one of the greatest thinkers and storytellers in our history.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 6, 2019
She gave us all so much, and her work continues to give throughout time. Thank you, Toni Morrison. https://t.co/XEDGNS7OXW
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 6, 2019
Holding all those touched by Toni Morrison in my heart today. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2jkAvtaErK
This Toni Morrison quote changed my life. pic.twitter.com/oLHbqolz25— Aisha Saeed (@aishacs) August 6, 2019
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison RIP pic.twitter.com/0K1AZtoll6— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) August 6, 2019
Morrison died on Monday at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, announced her death — described as “peacefully” while “surrounded by family and friends — and a spokeswoman said the cause was complications of pneumonia.
We are profoundly sad to report that Toni Morrison has died at the age of eighty-eight.— Alfred A. Knopf (@AAKnopf) August 6, 2019
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019 pic.twitter.com/DWnElCpMKc
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