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Toni Morrison: A Portrait
The Woman, Editor, Writer, and Educator
Part of the Smithsonian Women’s History Initiative
Sunday, February 9, 2020 - 11:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Spend a day exploring the life and works of Nobel laureate, writer, and educator Toni Morrison with Michele L. Simms-Burton, founding board member of the Toni Morrison Society. She traces Morrison’s career in a creative arc that spans her formative years at Howard University as a student, actress, and professor; her role as an editor at Random House and her breakthrough first novel; honors including the National Book Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature; and her stature as an acclaimed literary figure.
11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. The Howard Years and Early Writings
Follow Morrison from a Howard University undergraduate student to graduate school at Cornell University to her nascent years as a professor at Howard, where she learned from and taught such luminaries as poet Sterling Brown and activist Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture). Simms-Burton examines how these experiences influenced and sparked Morrison to hone her critical and creative skills, which would lead to her role as an editor, and ultimately, to her debut novel The Bluest Eye in 1970.
12:30–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:30 p.m. Editor and Novelist
As an editor at Random House, Morrison shepherded books by Angela Davis, Gayle Jones, and Henry Dumas. Explore Morrison’s influence at Random House on a generation of African American writers, and how her keen editorial eye informed the structure and language of her novels.
2:45–4:15 p.m. From Princeton to Paris: Creativity Abounds
Although an internationally recognized writer, winning the Nobel Prize broadened Morrison’s artistic and creative endeavors providing her with the space to engage her undergraduate passion: theater. End the survey of her career and achievements by examining Morrison’s creative endeavors beyond the page.
Simms-Burton is a former professor of African American studies at Howard University.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)