Toni Morrison's contribution to American literature: A show Case of a Black Writer
The Black and Education
From the 17th century a steady stream of blacks from Africa were kidnapped and brought to America as slaves to work on plantations. These slaves had very few rights and subsisted at the mercy of the white farmers. The church also acquiesced in this sordid act. The black had no access to education and had no chance to develop any intellectual capability. Why the church acquiesced in this slavery, is difficult to understand as at no stage Jesus in his teachings differentiated between races or condoned any form of slavery. Sitting in our plush drawings room in the 21st century its difficult to visualize how the farmers all white sat in their palatial mansions sand attended church on Sundays, where they listened to the Gospel, felt no remorse for the black slave, some of were kept in chains.
The Black and the World of Intellect
Without education and any freedom, the black could never aspire to enter the world of the intellectual. Thus hardly any writers or poets emerged from the black population in America. For well nigh 300 years no black writers or poets emerged as the whites successfully de-humanised the black and treated him worse than the pets kept on their estates.
There was a change in the 20th century when a certain amount of emancipation of the black took place. Some writers and artists emerged who showed that the stereotyped image of the Negro without brains was not true.
Toni Morrison Broke the Stereotyped Image of the Black
One of the writers who emerged is Toni Morrison. She was a black and was born in 1931. She is one of the writers who contributed significantly to dispel the notion that the Negro cannot follow intellectual pursuits. She took to writing and in the process left an indelible mark as a writer on the American literary scene,
Toni Morrison’s forte was novels with epic themes. Being a black her themes revolved around the African-American. Her novels typically concentrate on the lives of black women in America.
She wrote prodigiously and produced some of the finest novels to grace the American literary scene.
The Books of Toni Morrison
Among the famous novels by Toni Morrison are The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon and Beloved. These books established Morrison as a writer of standing. Recognition came with the the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for Beloved and the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993. She was honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 29 March 2012.
Toni Morrison’s Contribution to Black Literature
Toni Morrison not only wrote books herself, but keeping her heritage in mind and the lack of intellectual openings for negroes in America did yeoman service by bringing black literature into the mainstream. She was able to do this because she was editor of The New York City headquarters of Random house. Earlier she had worked as textbook editor at Syracuse, New York. Toni Morrison gave a fillip to black writers like Henry Dumas, Angela Davis, Gayle Jones and Toni Cade Bambara by editing their books. She also had the distinction of teaching at Yale University and Bard College.
Facing Discrimination Still
Morrison’s life has not been without controversy. In 1987 she wrote the novel Beloved which was a critical success. Despite the critics hailing the novel, Morrison was not considered for the National Book Award as well as the National Book Circle Award. . This led to an unprecedented act when 48 Black critics and writers protested the omission of Toni Morrison from the awards list. However there was recompense when she won the Pulitzer Prize. Recognition also came with the New York Book Times naming Beloved the best American novel in the previous 25 years. But her omission from the National Book award list at that time shows that America has as yet not exorcised the ghost of black slavery.
The work of Toni Morrison has greatly enriched the American literary scene. She has ensured that the Negro becomes part of mainstream American literature. This is essential, as the Blacks constitute a significant minority in America.
Toni had earlier married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect who was a member of the faculty at Howard University. They had two children, but divorced in 1964. Her biggest contribution is to prove to diehard whites, that the Negro is not without brains and given the opportunity is more than a match for the best in the world