Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Toni Morrison

[By Kenton Rambsy]

Yesterday’s post on Zora Neale Hurston provided me with valuable information on how Wikipedia presents her to internet users.

Today, I decided to concentrate on Toni Morrison. Last week, I did on post informing readers of what I learned about Morrison’s novel Beloved. Today, I focus solely on her author page on Wikipedia. Many novels and authors in the “100 Novels Collection” have extensively developed pages that reveal a wide range of information. I think attention to these factors are key to better understand how black writers and novels are presented on Wikipedia.

What Wikipedia Taught Me About Toni Morrison
  • I learned that she also was commissioned to write the libretto for a new opera, Margaret Garner, first performed in 2005.
  • I learned that Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio to Ramah (née Willis) and George Wofford. She is the second of four children in a working-class family.
  • I learned that in 1949 Morrison entered Howard University, where she received a B.A. in English in 1953. She earned a Master of Arts degree in English from Cornell University in 1955, for which she wrote a thesis on suicide in the works of William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf.
  • I learned that in 1958 she married Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect and fellow faculty member at Howard University. They had two children, Harold and Slade, and divorced in 1964.
  • I learned that as an editor for Random House, Morrison played a vital role in bringing black literature into the mainstream, editing books by authors such as Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis, and Gayl Jones.
  • I learned that her third novel, Song of Solomon (1977), brought her national attention. The book was a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the first novel by a black writer to be so chosen since Richard Wright's Native Son in 1940. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
  • I learned that in 1987, Morrison’s novel Beloved became a critical success. When the novel failed to win the National Book Award as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award, a number of writers protested over the omission. Shortly afterward, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the American Book Award.
  • I learned that in 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
  • I learned that In 1996 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Morrison for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities.
  • I learned from 1989 until her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University.
  • I learned that in writing about the impeachment in 1998, Morrison wrote that, since Whitewater, Bill Clinton had been mistreated because of his “Blackness”: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President… After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.
  • I learned that in the context of the 2008 Democratic Primary campaign, Morrison stated to Time magazine: “People misunderstood that phrase. I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him. I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp. I have no idea what his real instincts are, in terms of race.” 
  • I learned that in the Democratic primary contest for the 2008 presidential race, Morrison endorsed Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton, though expressing admiration and respect for the latter.  

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