Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist, Toni Morrison, was one of the world’s most prolific writers. The inspirational essayist is best known for her novels The Bluest Eye and Beloved, and has timeless influence through her motivational quotes. We have listed a handful of the best Toni Morrison quotes for those of you who have yet to discover her moving work. Even if you are already a fan of her work, we think you’ll appreciate her thought-provoking quotes.
Who is Toni Morrison?
Before we dive in, let’s briefly give some context and background to who Toni Morrison really was. She was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Ohio in 1931. Like many black women and men during that time in America, she was surrounded by the institutions of Jim Crow laws and racism. However, Morrison’s parents had established an important sense of heritage and language in their daughter through songs and stories.
She went to and graduated from Howard University in DC and then went on to study at Cornell University where she got her Masters of Arts. She then taught English as a professor for a while after that while raising two children as a single mother. It was at age 39, a few years after, she began writing her breakthrough fiction novel, The Bluest Eye.
Then she wrote Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise which is looked at as the iconic trilogy of Toni Morrison books. Beloved was adapted into a screenplay starring Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey and the rest was history. Morrison’s written work not only made her one of the more recognized black female authors of her day, but one of the more famous female authors of all time! Before finishing up Paradise, she was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature in ‘93. She received the President’s Medal of Freedom in 2016 from Barack Obama. In 2019, she passed away at the age of 88.
Toni Morrison’s most famous quote that stuck with the world might be one that is directed straight to writers:
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
As one of the best Toni Morisson quotes, it can inspire any creative – not just writers. If there is a song in your head that you wish to hear, but it hasn’t been written yet. If there’s a film plot that you wish someone would create, but no one has created it yet. You must create it. This is one of the more motivational quotes as it is very simple, yet emphatically demanding of one’s initiative.
9 more inspiring Toni Morrison quotes
“The function of freedom is to free someone else.”
“You are your best thing.”
“Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.”
“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
This here quote is one of Toni Morrison’s most quoted lines from her novel, Beloved, distinguishing freedom and ownership.
“At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”
“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
“In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
Toni Morrison was absolutely one to not shy away from the subject of racism. Many of her novels spoke to black experiences and black plights. This quote explains her thoughts on ‘whiteness’ being America’s clean slate, blank canvas. To Toni, all other kinds of American people were asterisks – not considered the true American standard.
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
This is one of the best Toni Morrison quotes for ultimate life purpose. We all are here to live and to die, but language is a means to live with connection. How can we live on this round planet together? How can we communicate with each other? In what ways do we connect to each other. That may be the measure of our lives.
If you’re an aspiring author or poet, take a look at the work of Toni Morrison. Read some of the fan favorites. And whether or not you’re a writer, take a moment every once in a while and return to these 10 Toni Morrison quotes for motivation and inspirational reminders. While you’re at it, we recommend you also visit our article that features the best C.S. Lewis quotes.