Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

Toni Morrison (1931-2019) passed away this week at the age of eighty-eight. A superlative writer for adults, Morrison also co-wrote several children's books with her son, the late Slade Morrison.

Her time as an editor came up earlier this year while we were working on the CSK Book Awards special issue, as children's publishing legends George and Bernette Ford mused about Bernette's early years at Random House and the dearth of African Americans in publishing in the 1960s and 1970s: "Toni Morrison was at Random House — she started in the school division, but eventually moved into trade books and began publishing luminary African American authors." For more fascinating and essential history (from the time), read Great Lady librarian Augusta Baker's 1975 Horn Book Magazine article "The Changing Image of the Black in Children's Literature": "Blacks were acting as consultants and reviewers; black editors, such as Toni Morrison and Walter Dean Myers, were emerging..."

Poet Nikki Grimes's 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award acceptance speech noted her gratitude to Morrison as professional mentor and guide: "There was Toni Morrison, who, while still an editor at Random House, discussed writing projects of mine in which she took an interest. Her faith in my talent was an enormous source of encouragement."

And here's author Ibi Zoboi, in her conversation with writers Edwidge Danticat and Rita Williams-Garcia, on the topic of building "A Fine Bookshelf":

IZ: How have you built and how will you continue to build a “fine bookshelf” for your daughters?

ED: My girls have read Toni Morrison's picture books, the ones she wrote with her son Slade. I’m really looking forward to my girls reading her adult books and other books by black women writers...

Toni Morrison has influenced, encouraged, and guided countless people in their art and in their lives. Her own work and life will never be forgotten. Find some more author tributes to this Great Lady here and here.

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