Remembering Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

Born on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, editor and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, exquisite language and richly detailed African American characters who are central to their narratives. Among her best-known novels are The Bluest Eye, SulaSong of SolomonBeloved, JazzLove and A Mercy. Morrison has earned a plethora of book-world accolades and honorary degrees, also receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Early Life and Education

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison was the second oldest of four children. Her father, George Wofford, worked primarily as a welder, but held several jobs at once to support the family. Her mother, Ramah, was a domestic worker. Morrison later credited her parents with instilling in her a love of reading, music and folklore along with clarity and perspective.

Living in an integrated neighborhood, Morrison did not become fully aware of racial divisions until she was in her teens. “When I was in first grade, nobody thought I was inferior. I was the only black in the class and the only child who could read,” she later told a reporter from The New York Times. Dedicated to her studies, Morrison took Latin in school and read many great works of European literature. She graduated from Lorain High School with honors in 1949.

At Howard University, Morrison continued to pursue her interest in literature. She majored in English and chose the classics for her minor. After graduating from Howard in 1953, Morrison continued her education at Cornell University. She wrote her thesis on the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, and completed her master’s degree in 1955. She then moved to the Lone Star State to teach at Texas Southern University.

Life as a Mother and Random House Editor

In 1957, Morrison returned to Howard University to teach English. There she met Harold Morrison, an architect originally from Jamaica. The couple married in 1958 and welcomed their first child, Harold, in 1961. After the birth of her son, Morrison joined a writers group that met on campus. She began working on her first novel with the group, which started out as a short story.

Morrison decided to leave Howard in 1963. After spending the summer traveling with her family in Europe, she returned to the United States with her son. Her husband, however, had decided to move back to Jamaica. At the time, Morrison was pregnant with their second child. She moved back home to live with her family in Ohio before the birth of son Slade in 1964. The following year, she moved with her sons to Syracuse, New York, where she worked for a textbook publisher as a senior editor. Morrison later went to work for Random House, where she edited works by Toni Cade Bambara and Gayl Jones, renowned for their literary fiction, as well as luminaries like Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali.

Toni Morrison’s Books

‘The Bluest Eye’

Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. She used as her literary first name “Toni,” based on a nickname derived from St. Anthony after she’d joined the Catholic Church. The book follows a young African American girl, Pecola Breedlove, who believes her incredibly difficult life would be better if only she had blue eyes. The controversial book didn’t sell well, with Morrison stating in a 1994 afterword that the reception to the work was parallel to how her main character was treated by the world: “dismissed, trivialized, misread.”

‘Sula’

Morrison nonetheless continued to explore the African American experience in its many forms and eras in her work. Her next novel, Sula (1973), explores good and evil through the friendship of two women who grew up together in Ohio. Sula was nominated for the American Book Award.

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Give Your Faith a Voice

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak.” (2 Corinthians 4:13, NKJV)

TODAY’S WORD

Every believer has been given a measure of faith. In order to see the promises of God come to pass in your life, you have to give your faith a voice. You must declare what God says about you in His Word. Those seeds of faith inside you are activated when you speak them out into the atmosphere. That’s why the scripture tells us, “Let the weak say I am strong. Let the poor say I am rich.” When you give your faith a voice, you send forth the Word of God, and the Bible says that He watches over His Word to bring it to pass in your life.

The key is to not allow words of defeat or negativity to come out of your mouth. Don’t dig up your seed by speaking against His Word. Instead, water your seed by continuing to declare the Word of God. When you wake up every morning, thank Him that His promises are coming to pass in your life. As you do, you will see those things come to pass, and you will live the life of victory God has prepared for you.

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Father, I humbly come before You giving You my thoughts, my actions and my words. Help me to activate my faith by speaking Your Word daily. May my words and thoughts be pleasing to You always in Jesus’ name. Amen.

— Joel & Victoria Osteen

#SaturdayStamps: Matthew Henson

Orphaned as a youth, Henson went to sea at the age of 12 as a cabin boy on the sailing ship Katie Hines. Later, while working in a store in Washington, D.C., he met Peary, who hired him in 1887 as a valet for his next expedition to Nicaragua (1888). Peary, impressed with Henson’s ability and resourcefulness, employed him as an attendant on his seven subsequent expeditions to the Arctic (1891–92; 1893–95; 1896; 1897; 1898–1902; 1905–06; 1908–09). In 1909 Peary and Henson, accompanied by four Inuit, became the first men to reach the North Pole, the rest of the crew having turned back earlier. Henson’s account of the journey, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, appeared in 1912. The following year, by order of Pres. William Howard Taft, Henson was appointed a clerk in the U.S. Customs House in New York City, a post he held until his retirement in 1936. Henson received the Congressional medal awarded all members of the Peary expedition (1944).

 

Objective-in-Jesus: Courtesy

“Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on each other. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block in another’s way.”  Romans 14:12–13 (NIV)

Our objective-in-Jesus is to maintain courtesy and respect, even when we disagree with one another. When another is rude to you, you aren’t required to respond with rudeness. Consider if a response of rudeness comes from Jesus-in-you or from your own “desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1 NIV).

Jesus teaches us to respond to rudeness, or even heart-deep evil, with the more-powerful-every-time response of kindness. Paul, the blind man of the Damascus Road, says we’re to use the spiritual weapon of courtesy motivated by good: “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21 MSG).

Paul also says, in essence, that God does not see reactions, but only actions. Regardless, we’re responsible for our own behavior, our own choice of response: “Each of us will give an account of himself to God, therefore let us stop passing judgment on each other” (Romans 14:12–13 NIV).

This echoes Jesus, when he talks about out tendency to be blind ophthalmologists: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NIV). Courtesy carries the same strength as a gentle answer, which turns away anger and rudeness (Proverbs 15:1).