Toni Morrison remembered as 'a singular and courageous voice' in celebrity tributes

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Likewise, actress Kerry Washington wrote that she “cannot imagine growing up in a world without her words.”

Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris used a Morrison quote — “something that is loved is never lost” in her tribute:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote about Morrison’s “unmatched empathy, elegance and power.”

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.

Here are some more of the tributes:

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.

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