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Rep. John Lewis on the Passing of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison

August 6, 2019
Press Release

“We have lost one of the most admired and gifted writers of our time.  My late wife, Lillian, loved Toni Morrison’s and even came to know her as a friend.  Toni Morrison was unapologetically black, mining the “rich” heritage of the African American story to reveal truths of our lives that we might never have seen had she not committed words to the page. 

“Without her courage as an editor, Americans might never have fully understood the powerful victory of Angela Davis, the spiritual life of Muhammad Ali, and the political philosophy of Chinua Achebe.  As a writer, her fictional characters, whom she said visited her and communed with her as she wrote, were unforgettable.  Pecola of The Bluest Eye; Beloved, the frustrated, mute spirit who was the central character of her prize-winning book; as well as the strange and bewildering Sula captured, the interior life of African Americans in a way we had never seen in print.

“She was rewarded for her gifts, becoming the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 for Beloved, which also won the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award among others. She was honored by President Barack Obama when she received the Medal of Freedom, this nation’s highest civilian honor in 2012. 

“Toni Morrison was our griot who told the stories that defined the soul of a people.  She weaved our centuries of struggle for existence and recognition with a spiritual philosophy of love and gifted imagination.  And through her work we understood the magical in ourselves in ways our day-to-day lives would not give us room to see.  She spoke of us to communities who could never define us and revealed our abstraction, our spirituality, and our beauty.

“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.”