Toni Morrison

You wanna fly, you got to give up the thing that weighs you down.”

Born on Feb. 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison is lauded for her pioneering writing on the African American experience, especially the black female experience, with “unclean hands,” according to Essence.

She attended and taught at Howard University, was further educated at Cornell University, and also taught at Princeton University.

Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, Morrison was the first African American woman to receive that award. Some of her most notable novels are “The Bluest Eye,” “Song of Solomon,” and “Beloved.”

“Beloved” won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which is based on the true story of a runaway slave. Oprah Winfrey stars in the film adaptation of the novel.

In 2012, President Barack Obama named her a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”