119+ Best Toni Morrison Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison, known as Toni Morrison, was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor. Profoundly inspirational Toni Morrison quotes will make you look at life differently and help you live a meaningful life.

If you’re searching for inspirational quotes by famous authors that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of quotes by Wendell Berry, best Zora Neale Hurston quotes and greatest Shel Silverstein quotes.

Famous Toni Morrison Quotes

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…. So it seems to me that my world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger. – Toni Morrison

In order to be as free as I possibly can, in my own imagination, I can’t take positions that are closed. Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it, to open doors, sometimes, not even closing the book — leaving the endings open for reinterpretation, revisitation, a little ambiguity. – Toni Morrison

Something that is loved is never lost. – Toni Morrison

Black people’s music is in a class by itself and always has been. There’s nothing like it. The reason for that is because it was not tampered with by white people. It was not on the media. It was not anywhere except where black people were. And it is one of the art forms in which black people decided what is good in it. Nobody told them. What surfaced and what floated to the top, were the giants and the best. – Toni Morrison

Black people are victims of an enormous amount of violence. None of those things can take place without the complicity of the people who run the schools and the city. – Toni Morrison

In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent. – Toni Morrison

Perhaps that’s what all human relationships boiled down to: Would you save my life? or would you take it? – Toni Morrison

I think some aspects of writing can be taught. Obviously, you can’t teach vision or talent. But you can help with comfort. – Toni Morrison

Laughter is more serious than tears. – Toni Morrison

In Tar Baby, the classic concept of the individual with a solid, coherent identity is eschewed for a model of identity which sees the individual as a kaleidoscope of heterogeneous impulses and desires, constructed from multiple forms of interaction with the world as a play of difference that cannot be completely comprehended. – Toni Morrison

Misery colored by the greens and blues in my mother’s voice took away all the grief out of the words and left me with a conviction that pain was not only endurable, it was sweet. – Toni Morrison

In becoming an American, from Europe, what one has in common with that other immigrant is contempt for me-it’s nothing else but color. – Toni Morrison

If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it. – Toni Morrison

Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live – Toni Morrison

This word LOVE – discredited, clicheed – can be restored and love, the instinct, the impulse to care for somebody in the hope that somebody will care for you – plus our language, the language, a language – is about all we have. With everything else going on, this is what makes us, what keeps us human. – Toni Morrison

Like any artist without an art form, she became dangerous. – Toni Morrison

The concept of physical beauty as a virtue is one of the dumbest, most pernicious and destructive ideas of the Western world, and we should have nothing to do with it. – Toni Morrison

Evil is just sort of ultimately boring. The good thing is just complicated. It’s more provocative to me and more stimulating to me. – Toni Morrison

Freedom is choosing your responsibility. It’s not having no responsibilitie s; it’s choosing the ones you want. – Toni Morrison

Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission. – Toni Morrison

American means white, and Africanist people struggle to make the term applicable to themselves with ethnicity and hyphen after hyphen after hyphen. – Toni Morrison

Unpersecuted, unjailed, unharrassed writers are trouble for the ignorant bully, the sly racist, and the predators feeding off the world’s resources. – Toni Morrison

You can’t own a human being. You can’t lose what you don’t own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you? And neither does he. You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself. – Toni Morrison

One has to work very carefully with what is in between the words. What is not said. Which is measure, which is rhythm and so on. So, it is what you don’t write that frequently gives what you do write its power. – Toni Morrison

Women’s rights is not only an abstraction, a cause; it is also a personal affair. It is not only about us; it is also about me and you. Just the two of us. – Toni Morrison

He leans over and takes her hand. With the other he touches her face. ‘You your best thing, Sethe. You are.’ His holding fingers are holding hers. ‘Me? Me? – Toni Morrison

Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. – Toni Morrison

There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up, holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind–wrapped tight like skin. Then there is the loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive. On its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place. – Toni Morrison

In a way, her strangeness, her naiveté, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous. – Toni Morrison

Don’t beg anybody for anything, especially love. – Toni Morrison

I dream a dream that dreams back at me. – Toni Morrison

If writing is thinking and discovery and selection and order and meaning, it is also awe and reverence and mystery and magic. – Toni Morrison

The function of freedom is to free someone else. – Toni Morrison

A coward with a gun is the most dangerous person in the world – Toni Morrison

Writing is really a way of thinking–not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet. – Toni Morrison

I get angry about things, then go on and work. – Toni Morrison

There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. – Toni Morrison

Of course I’m a black writer… I’m not just a black writer, but categories like black writer, woman writer and Latin American writer aren’t marginal anymore. We have to acknowledge that the thing we call literature is more pluralistic now, just as society ought to be. The melting pot never worked. We ought to be able to accept on equal terms everybody from the Hasidim to Walter Lippmann, from the Rastafarians to Ralph Bunche. – Toni Morrison

Black people have always been used as a buffer in this country between powers to prevent class war. – Toni Morrison

The race thing is sort of a misnomer. It’s just the human race, right? That’s it. The rest of it, and racism, is socially constructed. Nobody is born racist, no one. What happens is other things that are usually based on power, money, feeling good about yourself, or bad about yourself, those things play into hating other people for whatever reason. – Toni Morrison

A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double. – Toni Morrison

Black literature is taught as sociology, as tolerance, not as a serious, rigorous art form. – Toni Morrison

My metaphor is that evil always has a top hat and a cape, and goodness is over there in the corner. For me it’s just too easy, if you hate your country or your wife, so you kill them. You can’t think through that, you can’t feel through that, you can’t do the work. And now we have guns. Solution? I don’t think so. – Toni Morrison

If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him – the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn’t she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How? What could his calloused hands produce to make her smile? What of his knowledge of the world and of life could be useful to her? What could his heavy arms and befuddled brain accomplish that would earn him his own respect, that would in turn allow him to accept her love? – Toni Morrison

No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That’s a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything. – Toni Morrison

Sweet, she thought. He must think I can’t bear to hear him say it. That after all I have told him and after telling me how many feet I have, goodbye would break me to pieces. Ain’t that sweet. So long, she murmured from the far side of the trees. – Toni Morrison

I always know the ending; that’s where I start. – Toni Morrison

Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not, permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas. – Toni Morrison

In Ohio seasons are theatrical. Each one enters like a prima donna, convinced its performance is the reason the world has people in it. – Toni Morrison

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. – Toni Morrison

Beloved, you are my sister, you are my daughter, you are my face; you are me. – Toni Morrison

Think of anybody – Dostoevsky or Jane Austen – [their work] was always something that now we would call political. So I don’t see those separations too much, between what is artistic and what is political. Maybe in painting… no, I don’t even believe that. – Toni Morrison

I don’t think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It’s perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man. – Toni Morrison

From my point of view, your life is already a miracle of chance waiting for you to shape its destiny. – Toni Morrison

Your life is already artful-waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art. – Toni Morrison

Hospitality is gold in this City; you have to be clever to figure out how to be welcoming and defensive at the same time. When to love something and when to quit. If you don’t know how, you can end up out of control or controlled by some outside thing like that hard case last winter. – Toni Morrison

You free. Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you. – Toni Morrison

Listen, baby, people do funny things. Specially us. The cards are stacked against us and just trying to stay in the game, stay alive and in the game, makes us do funny things. Things we can’t help. Things that make us hurt one another. We don’t even know why. – Toni Morrison

I like marriage. The idea. – Toni Morrison

If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down. – Toni Morrison

There’s a difference between writing for a living and writing for life. If you write for a living, you make enormous compromises…. If you write for life, you’ll work hard; you’ll do what’s honest, not what pays – Toni Morrison

Anything I have ever learned of any consequence, I have learned from Black people. I have never been bored by any Black person, ever. – Toni Morrison

The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power. – Toni Morrison

A friend gathers all the pieces and gives them back in the right order. – Toni Morrison

I don’t wait to be struck by lightning and I don’t need certain slants of light in order to be able to write. – Toni Morrison

There in the center of that silence was not eternity but the death of time and a loneliness so profound the word itself had no meaning. – Toni Morrison

Anything dead coming back to life hurts. – Toni Morrison

The peace I am thinking of is the dance of an open mind when it engages another equally open one. – Toni Morrison

When you first start writing-and I think it’s true for a lot of beginning writers-you’re scared to death that if you don’t get that sentence right that minute it’s never going to show up again. And it isn’t. But it doesn’t matter-another one will, and it’ll probably be better. And I don’t mind writing badly for a couple of days because I know I can fix it-and fix it again and again and again, and it will be better. – Toni Morrison

All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in. – Toni Morrison

At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens – that letting go – you let go because you can. – Toni Morrison

It had been the longest time since she had had a rib-scraping laugh. She had forgotten how deep and down it could be. So different from the miscellaneous giggles and smiles she had learned to be content with these past few years. – Toni Morrison

Literature, it seems to me, is wisdom. – Toni Morrison

Please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Of course you deserve it, but if that’s all you have in mind – happiness – I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice – that’s more than a barren life. It’s a trivial one. – Toni Morrison

Books ARE a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind. – Toni Morrison

I always looked upon the acts of racist exclusion, or insult, as pitiable, from the other person. I never absorbed that. I always thought that there was something deficient about such people. – Toni Morrison

When there is pain, there are no words. All pain is the same. – Toni Morrison

Race is the least reliable information you can have about someone. It’s real information, but it tells you next to nothing. – Toni Morrison

I know there’s some poetry that sort of sounds like daisies, but most of the good poetry is also [political], you can feel the heartbeat; it’s about some situation that concerns human beings under duress. It’s suggesting a solution, or just acknowledging that [the situation] exists. Art does that. – Toni Morrison

I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer – its dust and lowering skies. – Toni Morrison

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. – Toni Morrison

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom. Like art. – Toni Morrison

I’m always annoyed about why black people have to bear the brunt of everybody else’s contempt. If we are not totally understanding and smiling, suddenly we’re demons. – Toni Morrison

How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it. – Toni Morrison

People say to write about what you know. I’m here to tell you, no one wants to read that, cos you don’t know anything. So write about something you don’t know. And don’t be scared, ever. – Toni Morrison

I am a moralist. I worry. – Toni Morrison

There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race – scientifically, anthropologically. Racism is a construct, a social construct… it has a social function, racism. – Toni Morrison

Sunk in the grass of an empty lot on a spring Saturday, I split the stems of milkweed and thought about ants and peach pits and death and where the world went when I closed my eyes. – Toni Morrison

Well, feel this, why don’t you? Feel how it feels to have a bed to sleep in and somebody there not worrying you to death about what you got to do each day to deserve it. Feel how that feels. And if that don’t get it, feel how it feels to be a colored woman roaming the roads with anything God made liable to jump on you. Feel that. – Toni Morrison

The language must be careful and must appear effortless. It must not sweat. It must suggest and be provocative at the same time. – Toni Morrison

I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. – Toni Morrison

Each member of the family in his own cell of consciousness, each making his own patchwork quilt of reality – collecting fragments of experience here, pieces of information there. From the tiny impressions gleaned from one another, they created a sense of belonging and tried to make do with the way they found each other. – Toni Morrison

I write the way women have babies. You don’t know it’s going to be like that. If you did, there’s no way you would go through with it. – Toni Morrison

I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me. – Toni Morrison

Black boys became criminalized. I was in constant dread for their lives, because they were targets everywhere. They still are. – Toni Morrison

My world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger. – Toni Morrison

Let your face speak what’s in your heart. – Toni Morrison

Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. the lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glance of the lover’s inward eyes. – Toni Morrison

One of my kids was born in 1968. There were going to be political difficulties, but they were never going to have that level of hatred and contempt that my brothers and my sister and myself were exposed to. – Toni Morrison

I’m a writer in the world. I translate the confusion that I might feel, the dread that I know I feel, moving towards some other place, moving away from puny language, from all that dread into some other kind of language. – Toni Morrison

Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. – Toni Morrison

Make a difference about something other than yourselves. – Toni Morrison

Sifting daylight dissolves the memory, turns it into dust motes floating in light. – Toni Morrison

New York is the last true city. – Toni Morrison

Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined. – Toni Morrison

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. – Toni Morrison

Clever, but schoolteacher beat him anyway to show him that definitions belonged to the definers – not the defined. – Toni Morrison

If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have a serious problem. And white people have a very, very serious problem. – Toni Morrison

I’m not entangled in shaping my work according to other people’s views of how I should have done it. – Toni Morrison

Love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize. – Toni Morrison

Liberation means you don’t have to be silenced. – Toni Morrison

I want to discourage you from choosing anything or making any decision simply because it is safe. Things of value seldom are – Toni Morrison

No gasp at a miracle that is truly miraculous because the magic lies in the fact that you knew it was there for you all along. – Toni Morrison

Misery don’t call ahead. That’s why you have to stay awake – otherwise it just walks on in your door. – Toni Morrison

Somebody has to take responsibility for being a leader. – Toni Morrison

As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think. – Toni Morrison

There’s a contract that I make between myself, the author, and the reader. I have to figure out how to give the reader certain powers of recognition, or his own knowledge, his own feelings, but I provide them, so we’re working together. – Toni Morrison

Today is always here,’ said Sethe. ‘Tomorrow, never. – Toni Morrison

It’s important, therefore, to know who the real enemy is, and to know the function, the very serious function of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Someone says you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing. – Toni Morrison

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