The Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, whose work gave moving voice to the African American experience, died August 5 at the age of 88.
Morrison’s death, announced this morning by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, is already drawing an outpouring of tributes, with many emphasizing Morrison’s abiding interest in empathy and the pernicious nature of prejudice.
Honoring Morrison were authors, journalists and celebrities.
Feeling unspeakable gratitude for Toni Morrison.— Alexandra Schwartz (@Alex_Lily) August 6, 2019
Today, more than ever, we need Toni Morrison’s words, wisdom, light: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread.”
Rest in power, great goddess of language.
via @thenationhttps://t.co/CTIUcCYCHD— (((Lizzy Ratner))) (@lizzyratner) August 6, 2019
This is a huge, indescribable loss but also my god imagine being who she was and doing what she did in the paltry span of a human lifetime. 88 years well spent. https://t.co/Z0YKCmaNwv— Jess Zimmerman (@j_zimms) August 6, 2019
Novelist Rachel Kadish, who was a student of Morrison’s at Princeton, emphasized the continuing urgency of Morrison’s work.
How to post a favorite quote from Toni Morrison when so many of her words have shaped me? I want to quote them all. Go pick up one of her books today, please. Start anywhere. We all need her words. This country needs her words, more than ever.— Rachel Kadish (@RachelSKadish) August 6, 2019
Writer Roxane Gay praised Morrison for her craft and clear view of humanity.
RIP Toni Morrison. This is a devastating loss to the world of words, to our understanding of power and it’s reach, to the cultivation of empathy, to rich, nuanced, elegant storytelling. Her work was a gift to every one who had the pleasure of reading her.— roxane gay (@rgay) August 6, 2019
“The Wire” creator David Simon spoke of Morrison’s unparalleled ability to use our language as a force for good, while actress Natasha Lyonne retweeted her favorite Morrison aphorism.
If anyone ever used ideas and the English language for better, they are unknown to me. A great American soul has passed. https://t.co/bdxtm86rD8— David Simon (@AoDespair) August 6, 2019
One of the great truths of all time. https://t.co/mw1xoZCtgm— natasha lyonne (@nlyonne) August 6, 2019
Actress Tracee Ellis Ross spoke of Morrison’s work’s iconic influence on her life and filmmaker Ava DuVernay quoted the Nobel laureate’s thoughts on grace.
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
“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, #ToniMorrisonpic.twitter.com/wcD7w9zKYp— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 6, 2019
Chef and food historian Michael Twitty praised Morrison’s fearlessness in the face of white critics, and shared Richard Avedon’s iconic 1981 Newsweek cover photo of the author.
#ToniMorrison won the Nobel Prize
A Black American woman
She won the Pulitzer
But her greatest accomplishment was her telling white critics, especially men, that she wasn’t writing for them, to them , and that there was “no little white man,” on her shoulder editing her life.— Michael W. Twitty (@KosherSoul) August 6, 2019
toni morrison by richard avedon for newsweek (march 30, 1981) pic.twitter.com/qrTOqk885g— vampire workday (@imbobswaget) August 6, 2019
Representative Marcia L. Fudge, from Morrison’s home state of Ohio, had no doubt as to the author’s enduring legacy.
The passing of Ohio native and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison is heartbreaking. Her novels broke barriers and opened the eyes of the world to the African American experience. Her enduring legacy will impact aspiring writers, avid readers and the entire country for years to come. pic.twitter.com/izgeQiD0MC— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) August 6, 2019
President Barack Obama, who presented Morrison with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, praised the her spirit - both in print and in person.
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
But perhaps no one on Twitter paid a more elegant tribute to the “Beloved” author than Dictionary.com, which simply tweeted what Morrison was to so many.
A person who is greatly loved.— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) August 6, 2019
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org