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Award-winning novelist and educator Toni Morrison has provided several soul-stirring stories and essays for nearly five decades. Today is the Lorain, Ohio native’s birthday.

Born Chloe Wofford in 1931, Morrison’s pen name was inspired by her baptismal name of Anthony when she joined the Catholic Church at 12. A stellar high school student, she entered Howard University, leaving the institution with a bachelor’s in English in 1953 and then earned a master’s at Cornell University in 1955. Morrison took a job as a professor at Texas Southern University and then taught several years at Howard ahead of becoming Random House’s first Black woman senior editor of its fiction department.

Morrison released her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” in 1970 but it wasn’t met with wide acclaim until later in her career. She followed her debut with 1973’s “Sula” and 1977’s “Song Of Solomon” – this book brought Morrison international fame and became the first book by a Black author since Richard Wright’s “Native Son” to be named a Book Of The Month Club selection.

In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Beloved,” the first in a celebrated trilogy that spawned the 1998 film of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey. In 1993, Morrison became the first Black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. She has received a countless number of awards, including the National Humanities Award in 2000.

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