What was Toni Morrison’s Net Worth?
Toni Morrison was an American novelist, editor, and professor who had a net worth of $20 million at the time of her death. Toni Morrison was best known for authoring such historical fiction novels as “Song of Solomon” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Beloved.” For her body of work, which candidly addresses the experiences of black Americans and the legacy of racism in the US, she also earned such honors as the Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. Additionally, Morrison penned some non-fiction works, and co-wrote children’s books with her son Slade.
In 1970, her first novel “The Bluest Eye” was published. She was nominated for the National Book Award for “Sula,” which was published in 1973. In 1977 her novel “Song of Solomon” was chosen by the Book-of-the-Month club. It was the first novel by a black writer in almost 40 years to earn the distinction and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1987 she published “Beloved.” The book went on to win the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was made into a movie starring Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. Morrison received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 2000, her book “The Bluest Eye” was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club. Morrison was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Early Life and Education
Toni Morrison was born as Chloe Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio as the second of four children of Ramah and George, working-class black parents from the American South who moved north to escape racism. When Morrison was a toddler, her family’s home was burned to the ground by their landlord after they were unable to pay the rent. Morrison was educated at Lorain High School, where she participated in drama club and debate and served on the yearbook staff. She went on to attend Howard University in Washington, DC, graduating in 1953 with a BA in English. After that, Morrison enrolled in an American literature graduate program at Cornell University, and earned her MA in 1955.
Morrison began her career in academia, teaching English at Texas Southern University for a couple of years and then at her alma mater Howard University for seven years. Subsequently, in the mid-60s, she became an editor for the textbook division of the publisher Random House. Morrison went on to become the first black woman senior editor in Random House’s fiction department two years later. In that role, she was integral in bringing black authors and their works to mainstream attention.
In 1970, Morrison published her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” about a young African-American girl growing up in the wake of the Great Depression. Her second novel, “Sula,” came out in 1973; focused on the friendship between two black women, it was nominated for the National Book Award. Morrison had her greatest critical success yet in 1977 with her third novel, “Song of Solomon,” which chronicles the life of an African-American man living in Michigan from his birth through adulthood. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, it was also chosen for Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club. Morrison’s next novel was the contemporary-set “Tar Baby,” published in 1981.
Morrison released her most venerated novel in 1987: “Beloved.” Inspired by the true story of enslaved African-American woman Margaret Garner, the novel was a massive critical success and became a bestseller for 25 weeks. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and in 1998 was adapted into a film directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Oprah Winfrey. “Beloved” became the first part of a loosely connected trilogy including “Jazz” and “Paradise.” Morrison returned to novel-writing in the 21st century to pen “Love,” “A Mercy,” and “Home.” Her 11th and final novel, “God Help the Child,” came out in 2015.
Other Written Works
In 1986, Morrison penned the play “Dreaming Emmett,” about the 1955 murder of black teenager Emmett Till. The play was performed at the State University of New York at Albany, where she was teaching. Later, in 1992, Morrison released her first work of non-fiction, the literary criticism book “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.” She went on to release some other non-fiction works, such as “Remember: The Journey to School Integration.” Morrison later became involved in a variety of other artistic mediums. She wrote text for original classical music scores, penned the libretto for the opera “Margaret Garner,” and created the 2011 play “Desdemona,” based on the character from Shakespeare’s “Othello.” With her son Slade, Morrison also wrote a number of children’s books. Titles include “The Big Box,” “The Book of Mean People,” “Peeny Butter Fudge,” and “Little Cloud and Lady Wind.”
In the early 80s, Morrison returned to academia to teach English at the State University of New York and Rutgers University. She was also a visiting professor at Bard College for a couple of years. From 1989 until her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University. In her role, she developed the Princeton Atelier, a program bringing together students with writers and artists.
Personal Life and Death
While teaching at Howard University, Morrison met Jamaican architect Harold Morrison, whom she wed in 1958. The couple had two children named Harold Jr. and Slade, and divorced in 1964. Slade passed away in late 2010 from pancreatic cancer.
In August of 2019, Morrison passed away from pneumonia complications in New York City. She was 88 years of age.
Morrison leaves a long and lasting legacy as one of the most important American authors of the 20th century. She achieved many milestones during her career, including becoming the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Morrison’s influence lives on through Oberlin College’s Toni Morrison Society, an international literary society devoted to scholarly research of her work; the Toni Morrison Papers, which are part of the permanent library collections at Princeton University; and through the continued reading and study of her books, many of which are staples of academic curricula. She has also been the subject of multiple documentary films, including 2019’s “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.”
In 2014, Toni paid $3.8 million for an apartment in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. In October 2020 her estate listed the apartment for $4.75 million.
In 2012 she sold a NYC apartment for an undisclosed amount.
In the late 1970s she bought a waterfront property in a town 25 miles north of NYC called Grand View-on-Hudson. She paid $120,000 for the property which is the same as around $500,000 in today’s dollars. The original structure was destroyed by a fire in the early 1990s. She rebuilt a larger estate. Toni’s son inherited this house soon after her death.