Today is celebrated American writer Toni Morrison’s 85th birthday. Throughout her 46-year career, the author has received top honors in the humanities, from the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her novel Beloved to the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2012. In 1993, she became the first Black woman (and the last American, as of today) to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
But Morrison's true impact can't be fully measured in prizes and accolades. Though her books are works of fiction by genre, they are also gritty, evocative explorations of race, gender, identity, and class. Her works are some of the most rich and compelling testaments to the lived experience of Black Americans, from the height of slavery through the Civil War and the Great Depression to today.
Morrison has always been vocal about how her identity has informed her writing. "I really think the range of emotions and perceptions I have had access to as a Black person and as a female person are greater than those of people who are neither," she said. "So it seems to me that my world did not shrink because I was a Black female writer. It just got bigger.” In honor of Morrison, here are 24 powerful, inspiring quotes about Black womanhood.