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Release Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 1:29 PM
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Ashley Bayton
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Alumna Toni Morrison Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison

WASHINGTON (May 31, 2012) – On Tuesday, President Barack Obama honored Toni Morrison as one of the thirteen recipients to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. As the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Ms. Morrison is the author of ten novels—The Bluest Eye (1970), which she began in a writing group at Howard, Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Beloved (1987), Jazz (1982), Paradise (1998), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008), and Home (2012).  She has also authored a short story, “Recitatif”; a series of children’s books with her late son, Slade; a libretto, Margaret Garner (2002); and a host of long critical essays, including Playing in the Dark: Essays on Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992) and The Dancing Mind, the speech she gave upon her acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

The recipient of every major award presented in literature, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the National Medal in the Humanities, Ms. Morrison was the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.  

Ms. Morrison earned the Bachelor of Arts in English at Howard University in 1953. From 1957-64, she was a member of the faculty of the Department of English, where she taught Reading, Composition, and Humanities courses. In 1995, she received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the Charter Day Convocation commemorating the University’s 128th year.

To view a video of the ceremony, visit


Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 24 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at

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