Celebrated author, essayist, editor, lyricist, playwright, and Princeton University professor emeritus Toni Morrison died Monday at the age of 88. Her longtime publisher Alfred A. Knopf confirmed her death, following a brief illness.
Ms. Morrison’s most famous works included The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved. She did not publish her first novel until she was nearly 40.
She was the first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, awarded in 1993. The Swedish Academy hailed her use of language and her “visionary force.” Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. It would later be adapted into the 1998 film of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover that was partially filmed both on location and on sound stages in Philadelphia.
Many of Ms. Morrison’s works, which also included children’s fiction, plays, and several collections of essays, would receive other major American awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977. She was a 2012 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page,” former President Barack Obama tweeted on Tuesday. “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.”
Ms. Morrison, the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities emeritus, joined Princeton in 1989 and was on the faculty of its creative-writing program until her retirement in 2006. Princeton awarded her an honorary doctoral degree in 2013. Her papers are housed at the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library there.
“Toni Morrison’s brilliant vision, inspired creativity, and unique voice have reshaped American culture and the world’s literary tradition,” Princeton president Chris Eisgruber said in a statement. “Her magnificent works will continue to light a path forward for generations of readers and authors. She revised this University, too. Through her scholarly leadership in creative writing and African American studies, and through her mentorship of students and her innovative teaching, she has inscribed her name permanently and beautifully upon the tapestry of Princeton’s campus and history.”
The full obituary was published at The Philadelphia Inquirer on Aug. 6, 2019.