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Toni Morrison, the
first black woman to receive Nobel Prize in Literature, was born
Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio, U.S.A.
She was the second of four children of George Wofford, a shipyard
welder and Ramah Willis Wofford. Her parents moved to Ohio from
the South to escape racism and to find better opportunities in the
North. Her father was a hardworking and dignified man. While the
children were growing up, he worked three jobs at the same time
for almost 17 years. He took a great deal of pride in the quality
of his work, so that each time he welded a perfect seam he'd also
weld his name onto the side of the ship. He also made sure to be
well-dressed, even during the Depression. Her mother was a church-going
woman and she sang in the choir. At home, Chloe heard many songs
and tales of Southern black folklore. The Woffords were proud of
Lorain was a small
industrial town populated with immigrant Europeans, Mexicans and
Southern blacks who lived next to each other. Chloe attended an
integrated school. In her first grade, she was the only black student
in her class and the only one who could read. She was friends with
many of her white schoolmates and did not encounter discrimination
until she started dating. She hoped one day to become a dancer like
her favorite ballerina, Maria Tallchief, and she also loved to read.
Her early favorites were the Russian writers Tolstoy and Dostoyevski,
French author Gustave Flaubert and English novelist Jane Austen.
She was an excellent student and she graduated with honors from
Lorain High School in 1949. More...