This article appeared in the August 06, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.


Remembering Toni Morrison's unflinching dignity

Kathy Willens/AP/File
Toni Morrison, seen here at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 1994, was the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature.
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

In today’s edition, our five handpicked stories explore GOP solutions (to mass shootings), justice (rape in Sierra Leone), relationships (U.S.-China, human-sea gull), and innovation (jet-engine hoverboard).

But first, let’s look at Toni Morrison’s legacy. The first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature (1993) died Monday. Her novels lyrically and unflinchingly plumbed slavery, sisterhood, racism, justice, sexual abuse, rage, guilt, and liberty. She’s “a national treasure ... ,” wrote former President Barack Obama today, “a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy.”

She leaves an indelible mark on America and a generation of black writers. I asked Monitor culture critic Candace McDuffie what Ms. Morrison means to her. 

“Toni Morrison made me feel valued and seen in a genre where we are usually neglected,” writes Candace in an email. “In white American literature, black women are either completely ignored or reduced to racist tropes. We are not docile Mammys, nor are we hypersexual Jezebels or inexplicably angry Sapphires. We are multidimensional and beautiful beings whose experiences run deep. Morrison managed to embody our complexities through works that showcased our humanity and wholeness.”

Candace respects that Ms. Morrison “never jeopardized her artistic integrity. ... Topics like slavery and racism and colorism and black feminism dominated her works and were powerful and revelatory because Morrison prioritized black authenticity over white comfort. And because of this, she will always be one of the most important writers of our time.”

Ms. Morrison will be missed. But her unique expression of dignity, defiance, and cultural honesty endures. As Mr. Obama wrote, “time is no match” for her works.

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This article appeared in the August 06, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.