Toni Morrison: Robin Roberts, Shonda Rhimes, and Others Respond to Death of Nobel Laureate

Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Monday. She was 88. 

Morrison, who was the first black woman to win a Nobel Prize, was the author of 11 novels including Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, and Paradise.

“I can think of few writers in American letters who wrote with more humanity or with more love for language than Toni,” said Sonny Mehta, chairman of Knopf, which published her books, in a statement. “Her narratives and mesmerizing prose have made an indelible mark on our culture.”  

Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison | Daniel Boczarski/FilmMagic

When news of Morrison’s death broke, many took to Twitter to remember the acclaimed writer and scholar, whose novel Beloved, about a woman who escapes from slavery and then kills her child rather than see her returned to captivity, was named the best work of American fiction of the last 25 years in 2006 by a group of noted writers and critics. 

Robin Roberts, Shonda Rhimes praise Toni Morrison 

Morrison’s death sparked an outpouring of remembrance and praise on social media. 

“’Something that is loved is never lost’…encouraging words from the beloved author #ToniMorrison that we can surely use today. So sad to hear of the passing of the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize…” tweeted Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts

Writer and producer Shonda Rhimes, who created shows like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, wrote that Morrison showed her that becoming a writer was a viable career. 

“She made me understand ‘writer’ was a fine profession. I grew up wanting to be only her.  Dinner with her was a night I will never forget,” Rimes tweeted. “Genius has moved on,” she added in a follow-up tweet. 

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and When They See Us, tweeted, “Your life was our gift, #ToniMorrison.”

“Her words were like mirrors to our collective souls. Like pillows to cushion the blows. Like mothers to wrap us in love. Like friends to hold our hands and see us through the darkness,” tweeted Gabrielle Union.

Maya Angelou, Kerry Washington, and Amber Tamblyn were among the many other mourning Morrison’s passing. 

Barack Obama calls Morrison a ‘national treasure’

Former president Barack Obama called Morrison a “national treasure” and described her writing as “a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and moral imagination.” 

Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the United States — in 2012. 

Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931. She wrote her first book, 1970’s The Bluest Eye, “because I wanted to read it,” explaining in a later interview that she wanted to write about “little black girls,” since they were characters who had never been taken seriously in literature.

“Word-work is sublime … because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life,” Morrison said in her Nobel Prize lecture in 1993. “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

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