I read The Bluest Eye when I was a young girl. I have been an avid reader as far back as I can remember so the fact that I wanted to read the book wasn’t a surprise. Thinking back, the reason why I wanted to read the book shakes me to the core. I won’t go into the long version of why I wanted to read this literary work, but I will tell you that as a girl – as was the case with many little Black girls in that day and time – I had no real sense of my own beauty.
I believed that being beautiful meant having long, blond hair, and blue eyes. My hair was indeed lighter than any other Black person’s I knew and so were my eyes, but the fact that the author of this book was writing about blue eyes and there just happened to be a black girl on the cover, was enough for me to want to read it. I figured the little girl on the cover must have wanted to have blue eyes, just like I did.
Little did I know that book would change the entire course of my life. Little did I know that picking up a book written by Toni Morrison would shift my thinking about beauty and cause me to believe that I could be a writer.
I grew up surrounded by strong Black women. My own mother was one of the strongest women to grace the soils of this planet. She was not, however, educated in the academic sense. She would not complete the 10th grade because she had to work. From her, I learned that the hardest push you will ever get from anyone is the one you give yourself. From her, I learned that if you want a thing, you have to go get it – plain and simple – you have to work a way to get it. From Toni Morrison, I learned that my voice could be heard across the lands. I learned that the ability to write carries unmatched power. Let’s talk about Ms. Morrison.
The woman we know as Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. There is so much to tell about her, but here are some facts, from the most basic to some of the ones that made her a historic figure:
- Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970.
- Song of Solomon, which was published in 1977, won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
- Beloved, published in 1987, won the Pulitzer Prize.
- Ms. Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a B.A. in English.
- In 1955, she earned a masters degree from Cornell University in American Literature from Cornell University.
- She became the first Black female editor in fiction at Random House in New York City.
- On May 29, 2012, Morrison was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
- In 2020, Morrison was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Toni Morrison is a part of history. She is a part of the fabric that paved the way for women to assert themselves and to use their voice. She showed us that we have the right – we have the power – to speak from the heart and to do it without seeking permission from anyone.