Morrison appreciated that he gave black women a voice


Senior House editor-in-chief Porscha Burke keeps a copy of Toni Morrison's edited The Black Book – an extensive encyclopedia about the performance of African-Americans – at her desk at work, not only as a reminder to the author, but also to keep her aware of the path that Morrison took for black women like her in the world.

"It's a reminder of what to wear in this room," Burke said.

Toni Morrison always spoke her truth uninhibitedly and frankly without fear, especially when it came to racism, sexism and American life, never to conform to the paradigms that her white male-dominated society tried to impose on her. impress.

After Morrison died this week at the age of 88, people around the world, particularly black women, mourned the loss of the Nobel Prize winner and Pulitzer prize winner and praised her for opening a literary door to their world – and reflecting their pains and triumphs in her work.

"The words of Toni gave black girls and women the freedom to be who they want to be and to step into the world as who they are," said blogger and author Luvvie Ajayi Tuesday. "The works of Toni teach us to be freer. Finally, she gave me the freedom to be who God had in mind. & # 39;

The groundbreaking books of Morrison include "Beloved", "Sula" and "The Bluest Eye". On Wednesday, the day after her death was announced, "Beloved" was the best-selling book about Amazon, "The Bluest Eye" was No. 3 and & # 39; Song of Songs & # 39; No. 4.

Morrison refused to write for a white audience, instead extrapolating from her own culture. In an interview, Morrison clearly remembered the reviewer who wondered when she & # 39; adult & # 39; would be about her writing and writing about white people, the & # 39; real confrontation & # 39; in African American lives.

"As if our life had no meaning, no depth without the white look," said Morrison. "I spent my entire writing life making sure that the white look was not the dominant in my books."

Morrison gave women, especially black women, the space to take care of themselves in life and in literature, said Dana A. Williams, president of the English section of Howard University – of which Morrison was an alumnus – and leader of the Toni Morrison Society. As an editor, Gayl Jones and Toni Cade Bambara were among the black women writers she published.

"She helped us understand that other people were included in the American story," she said. "She gave black women permission to write from their own cultures."

Avis Jones-DeWeever, Adviser on Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., said her reading of & # 39; The Bluest Eye & # 39; made her realize how important it is to be self-aware as a black woman.

"She was someone who showed us the best of who we are, showed the world the best of who we are … She focused on the importance of who we are, even when others tried to ask why she did that, " she said. “She was incredibly loyal to the beauty of our culture. In a society where whiteness is experienced as normality, her loyalty to the beauty of who we are as a culture and its richness and fullness was simply incredibly important and brave and I admire her for that. "

It was also the little things that made Morrison loved.

Jones-DeWeever said her longest "hair goals" were to imitate Morrison's steely gray locks, and Burke said she was surprised that Morrison was carrying the same big purse that many black grandmothers are known for.

"Filled with envelopes and papers, and probably a hard candy," Burke laughed. "Just like my grandmother, except that she is a Nobel Prize winner."

Burke said her race and gender should be remembered when she talks about Morrison.

"People want to celebrate blackness without emphasizing it," Burke said. "I feel it is my mission to maintain that front and center, just as we keep James Joyce's Irish heritage at the forefront of what he does. It is very meaningful and not something to hide."


Jesse J. Holland treats race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at, on Twitter at or on Facebook at