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Eric Bennett

The son of the first African American professor at Princeton University, Anthony Davis studied classical music as a child in New York and as an undergraduate at Yale University he played free-jazz with Anthony Braxton. After earning his B.A. at Yale in 1975, Davis moved to New York City, where he supported himself as a Jazz pianist. As Davis developed musically, his compositions deviated from traditional jazz. He often abandoned improvisation and drew elements from Western classical music and African and South Asian rhythms. His recordings from this period include Hidden Voices (1979) and Lady of the Mirrors (1981). In 1981 Davis formed an eight-piece ensemble, Episteme, whose repertoire included a combination of improvised and scored music, blurring the distinction between jazz and classical music.

In the 1980s Davis began focusing much of his work on historical subjects. Middle Passage (1984 ...

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Meredith Broussard

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and newspaper editor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jerry A. Moore, an electrician and stationary engineer at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and the Pyramid Tire Retreading Co., and homemaker Hura May Harrington. Moore grew up in West Philadelphia, where he attended Philadelphia's Overbrook High School and studied trumpet and French horn at the Settlement Music School. After graduating in 1958, he played jazz professionally for a year before enlisting in the U.S. Army, where he served as a medic. Returning to Philadelphia after being discharged from the Army in 1962, Moore applied for a job as a copy boy at the Philadelphia Inquirer—“Because I could type,” he said (telephone interview with subject, April 2007).

When Moore began as a copy clerk he was responsible for running copy to editors and reporters and was one of only three ...

Article

Kimberly Burnett

writer and editor. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Toni Morrison grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and had an older sister and two younger brothers. Her parents, George and Ramah Wofford, who had migrated to the steel-mill town from the South, provided Morrison with a background in African American folklore as well as an understanding of the importance of maintaining black community. After graduating from high school, Morrison left Lorain in 1949 to attend Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C.; during her time as an undergraduate, Morrison had the opportunity to travel throughout the South with the Howard University Players. After changing her first name to Toni, Morrison graduated from Howard in 1953 with a BA in English and a minor in classics. By 1955 Morrison had completed her MA degree at Cornell University and begun teaching at Texas Southern University Two years ...

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Furaha D. Norton

In her bestselling novels as well as her nonfiction Toni Morrison has created a sweeping panorama of the diasporic black experience in America In novels whose settings range from the American rural South and the industrial and urban North to the western frontier and which cover historical periods from the colonial era through the contemporary period she has used African American history myth and folklore as well as sharp insight into human behavior and motivation to create stories and characters that establish the black experience in America as one of tremendous nuance and complexity In her often fragmented nonlinear narratives the specters of slavery and ongoing racial oppression and inequality are ever present along with astonishing resilience and humanity Morrison s work has inspired an entire generation of students and scholars and has changed how readers understand race and history in literature the postmodern novel and how writers use folklore ...

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Kristine A. Yohe

If Toni Morrison were to draw a map of her journeys of personal and creative exploration the result would show many overlapping trajectories Although Morrison has lived most of her life in the Northeast and Midwest her parents origins in the South particularly Georgia and Alabama have deeply influenced her cultural awareness After growing up in Lorain Ohio Morrison attended college in Washington D C had an extended stay in the Caribbean her former husband s home did graduate work and editing in upstate New York taught for a time in Houston Texas and even traveled to Stockholm Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize yet she has lived in New York City or its vicinity for the bulk of her adult life Likewise her literary works span the country and even the hemisphere the settings frequently drawn from her own experiences in the Midwest the South the Caribbean Florida New ...

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Nellie Y. McKay

Toni Morrison's many achievements include a Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, a Pulitzer Prize (1987), and the National Book Critics Circle and American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Awards (1977). Born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison was christened Chloe Anthony Wofford, a name she later changed. She studied English at Howard University (B.A., 1953) and Cornell University (M.A., 1955). She taught briefly at Texas Southern and Howard Universities, edited textbooks, and in 1968, with two sons from a short-lived, late-1950s marriage, moved to New York City as a senior editor at Random House, where she promoted the careers of several now well-known black writers. From 1971 to 1988 Morrison taught at the State University of New York at Albany then became Robert F Goheen Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University By the late 1990s she had ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

I'm interested in how men are educated, how women relate to each other, how we are able to love, how we balance political and personal forces, who survives in certain situations and who doesn't and, specifically, how these and other universal issues relate to African Americans. The search for love and identity runs through most everything I write.

In this comment from a 1992 interview Toni Morrison gives one description of the complex range of issues she explores in her work Morrison is widely recognized as one of the most influential American writers and her novels are taught in literature history women s studies and African American studies courses across the United States and around the world She has received numerous honorary degrees prizes and awards including the Nobel Prize in Literature Above all Morrison is known for her rich lyrical prose which fuses the rhythms and imagery of ...

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Valerie Smith

novelist and Nobel laureate, was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, a poor, ethnically diverse steel town. She was the second of four children of George Wofford, who worked, variously, as a welder in a steel mill and as a road construction and shipyard worker, and Ella Ramah Willis. Both of Morrison's parents had migrated north, seeking better opportunities and to escape racial and economic oppression in the South. Her maternal grandparents had come to Ohio from Alabama and Kentucky; her father was originally from Georgia. Like many African American migrants, her family eventually realized that the North was not free of racism and poverty. Yet Morrison's childhood in Lorain taught her to value a community in which people shared the limited resources available to them. She also learned to appreciate the value of storytelling at an early age.

Morrison converted to Catholicism when she was ...

Article

From “Quiet as it's kept,” the phrase that begins the narrative of The Bluest Eye(1970), her first novel, to “Look where your hands are. Now,” the final phrase of Jazz (1992), her sixth novel, Toni Morrison has distinguished herself as an author, editor, and critic who has transformed the American literary landscape with her presence in the African American literary tradition. When she won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy referred to her as one “who, in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.” Indeed, in her Nobel lecture, delivered on 7 December 1993 in Stockholm she eloquently demonstrated that the visionary force and poetic import of her novels reflect her worldview and understanding of how language shapes human reality Through her own use of the spoken and written word she ...

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Carolyn C. Denard

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio a steel mill town on the shore of Lake Erie Morrison was the second of four children Her father was a welder in the steel mills and her mother was a homemaker Morrison s parents and maternal grandparents migrated to Lorain from the South in the early 1900s Her maternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Greenville Alabama who had lost their land in the late 1890s and were never able to get out of debt Her father s family had been sharecroppers in Cartersville Georgia and his painful memoirs of racial strife left him with a bitter attitude toward whites Morrison was thus brought up with a strong distrust of whites and an understanding that the only tangible or emotional aid on which she could depend would come from her own community Group loyalty was among the earliest values she was taught as ...