Among the many tributes paid on social media to Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, whose death was announced Tuesday, perhaps the most poignant are from women who read her works in school and found not only inspiration but also new ways to look at themselves and the world.
In 2017, for example, Virginia’s governor at the time, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, vetoed a bill that would have required schools to notify parents when students were assigned materials deemed sexually explicit. The measure became known as the “Beloved bill,” because it was born from an effort to ban Morrison’s “Beloved” from Fairfax County schools. According to the American Library Association, the book has been challenged repeatedly in school districts across the country.
But in many classes students were assigned her books — and their lives were changed, as they explain below in these tweets:
I was the only Black girl in a high school in Puerto Rico. My English teacher assigned ‘Beloved’ and suddenly I didn’t feel so lonely— Ericka Hart (She/ They) (@iHartEricka) August 6, 2019
Thank you Toni Morrison. Thank you for seeing me when it felt like no one else would
I began reading Toni Morrison my senior year of high school. Her messages of the strength and power of women who overcome great struggles shaped my belief system: Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon. Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for being an inspiration to many. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/bLF7imHIuJ— Tanya Perez (@SuperTPerez) August 6, 2019
The first book that I took out of my high school school library was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It was on the banned book list, but the Black librarian, Mrs. Perkins, waved me over and handed me the book, as well as many others over the years. Thank you for the gift. 💕📚🧠 pic.twitter.com/Kn9SmwwZW1— Jaclyn Jemison 🆘 (@JemisonJaclyn) August 6, 2019
Will never forget the whiplash of having to read Heart of Darkness & Song of Solomon back to back in high school, the swing from a total dismissal of black people to all of Toni Morrison’s fullness & richness and love.— Kashana (@kashanacauley) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison's narrative voice was among those that showed me early in my reading life that the power of storytelling isn't just to entertain. It is truth, empathy, and it is essential. I had the privilege of teaching Beloved with high school students years ago and am grateful. https://t.co/sDBDDn1MR8— Jenn Schiess (@jennschiess) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison was one of the few writers I read in school that made me feel seen. She was one of the few black women who’s work was taught in predominantly white academia, and that really spoke to me. I’m really sad to know she’s no longer with us. Her work lives on— WINTOUR IS COMING (@JaxIGuess) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison changed my life, my outlook on my own blackness, and my perception of the world esp when it comes to socially constructed identities. Reading The Bluest Eye in high school literally transformed so much for me. Thank you is not enough. Rest in peace and power— ranoya (@afrihrana) August 6, 2019
I remember reading Toni Morrison in high school. The Bluesy Eye changed my life. Song of Solomon set me free. I'm so thankful for her legacy. May she rest with the ancestors and may her work and fight continue through us. Ashe.— July 7th ♋️ (@alexdleonard) August 6, 2019
And there’s this, a quote from Morrison, who was a professor for years: