Chad Batka / The New York Times

One of Cornell's most distinguished alumna, Toni Morrison's M.A. '55 work was honored through a read-aloud event.

November 10, 2020

Morrison M.A. ’55 Nominated to Women’s Hall of Fame

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Cornell grad school alumnus and prolific writer Toni Morrison M.A. ’55 has been nominated for the 2020 class of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

The posthumous nomination will make Morrison the ninth Cornellian inducted into the hall, which is located in Seneca Falls, New York, the site of the first woman’s rights convention. She will enter with five others in the 2020 class, recognizing her life as a groundbreaking and inspirational novelist.

“Morrison indelibly put into the public imagination the image that great literature is neither bound to be written by men nor exclusively by people of European descent,” said a press release announcing her nomination.

Morrison was born in 1931 in Loraine, Ohio. After earning a B.A. in English from Howard University, she came to Cornell, where she received a Masters of Arts in American Literature. 

After a teaching career at Texas Southern University and Howard University, Morrison went on to become an editor at L.W. Singer, a publication under Random House. She was the first Black woman to become an editor at the vaunted book publisher.

From there, she began writing her own books, such as The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for her work Beloved, and in 1993, Morrison became the first Black woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. 

For her revolutionary breakthroughs, Morrison was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009.

“She has been unapologetic about her focus on Black people’s experiences, and the power with which she has brought this focus has earned her the moniker, ‘The Conscience of America,’” the press release stated.

Morrison died on Aug. 6, 2019 at the age of 88. Her passing was mourned by many across the country and on campus. A little over a year later, Cornell students held a live reading of her first work The Bluest Eye to commemorate the life of one of the University’s most influential alumni.

Last month, the University announced that it will name one of the new dorms on North Campus after Morrison, as well as one for Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’55.

This year’s class of Hall of Fame inductees is specifically intended for “showcasing under-represented women of achievement, posthumously.” December’s class “will showcase six Black women who shaped our nation.”

Along with Morrison, the class includes civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell, medical researcher Henrietta Lacks, editor-in-chief of the Peninsula Magazine Barbara Hillary, civil rights leader Barbara Rose Johns Powell and singer and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin.

The virtual induction ceremony will take place Dec. 10.