U.S. author Toni Morrison smiles in her office at Princeton University in New Jersey, while being interviewed by reporters on October 7, 1993. - Morrison said "I am outrageously happy" after hearing that she had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. author Toni Morrison smiles in her office at Princeton University in New Jersey, while being interviewed by reporters on October 7, 1993. - Morrison said "I am outrageously happy" after hearing that she had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Barack Obama, Beyoncé on the Legacy of Toni Morrison

Barack Obama, Beyoncé on the Legacy of Toni Morrison

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who transformed modern literature with stories centered on black lives, died Monday evening. Her transcendental work Beloved received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, two years after it published in 1987.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama presented her with the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, bestowed upon individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

In her 88 years, Morrison lit the path for generations of future writers and activists with novels about love, loss, power and resistance.

Her legacy and impact were felt by many, who shared their reflections at the news of her passing. You can find them below.

“Toni Morrison was a national treasure. Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful—a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy. She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. And so even as Michelle and I mourn her loss and send our warmest sympathies to her family and friends, we know that her stories—that our stories—will always be with us, and with those who come after, and on and on, for all time.” — former President Barack Obama, via Twitter.

“‘If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.’ Rest in paradise.” — Beyoncé, on her website.

“The passing of Toni Morrison is a mandate to all others in the field to fulfill the high calling that her work and her life demonstrated. Her words, her wisdom, her undying love and commitment to her people are forever engraved in the pages of history, but her artistic, remarkable literary voice will be deeply missed.” — Rep. John Lewis, in a statement.

“RIP Toni Morrison. This is a devastating loss to the world of words, to our understanding of power and its reach, to the cultivation of empathy, to rich, nuanced, elegant storytelling. Her work was a gift to everyone who had the pleasure of reading her.” — Roxane Gay, via Twitter.

“Today, the world lost a storyteller of unmatched empathy, elegance and power. Toni Morrison’s belief that language is the “measure of our lives” leaves an extraordinary, inspiring inheritance, and her beautiful writing will continue to be a blessing for generations to come.” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, via Twitter.

“Toni Morrison was a towering intellect, a brilliant scribe of our nation’s complex stories, a heartbreaking journalist of our deepest desires, and a groundbreaking author who destroyed precepts, walls and those who dared underestimate her capacity. Rest well and in peace.” — former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, via Twitter.

“She was the best of us: our strength, our hope, and most importantly, our history. I grieve her passing though I know she will never, ever be gone.” — Walter Mosley, via Facebook.

Novelist Toni Morrison and U.S. President Barack Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Novelist Toni Morrison and U.S. President Barack Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“In the passing of Toni Morrison, we lost one of our greatest voices & storytellers. Holding close those touched by her being & her gift. Her work gave us power, hope & freedom. While our world shines a little less bright today, we know “something that is loved is never lost.” — U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, via Twitter.

“My heart hurts. Her greatness was absolute. Her words changed worlds. Her work always belonged to the immortal, and her name will never be forgotten.” — author Elizabeth Gilbert, via Facebook.

“‘We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.’ Holding all those touched by Toni Morrison in my heart today.” — U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, via Twitter.

“Genius has moved on. 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. Rest, Queen.” — Shonda Rhimes, via Twitter.

“Aw man Toni Morrison taught me the word Rememory. RIP to a incredibly powerful and impactful woman.” — Chance the Rapper, via Twitter.

“Oh, no. So deeply saddened. Thank you for everything, Ms. Morrison.” — Celeste Ng, via Twitter.

“‘If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.’ — Toni Morrison. Today we lost an American legend. May she rest in peace.” — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, via Twitter.

“Toni Morrison was the first African-American woman to win a Nobel Prize. May she rest in power. #RememberHerName” — Billie Jean King, via Twitter.

“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. #RipToniMorrison (heart) you. May we lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there.” — Gabrielle Union, via Twitter.

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