Black History Month Spotlight: Toni Morrison & Arthur Ashe!

Black History Month: February 2020

To recall and celebrate the positive contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week beginning on Feb. 12, 1926. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month.



Toni Morrison was a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, editor and professor. Her best known novels are the Bluest EyeSulaSong of Solomon and Beloved. She was the first African-American woman to be selected for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In May 2012, Morrison received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She currently serves as Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. 


  • Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford on February 18,  in Lorain, OH in 1931.
  • She took the name Toni from her baptismal name, Anthony and Morrison from her ex husband.
  • Morrison got her BA from Howard and MA from Cornell, become and educator and editor
  • She began writing fiction as part of an informal group of writers at Howard University
  • Morrison married Harold Morrison in 1958. They welcomed their first child, son Harold, in 1961.
  • Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye in 1970, launching a new career just as she turned 40.
  • Morrison was appointed to the National Council on the Arts in 1980.
  • In 1998, Beloved was turned into a movie, starring Oprah Winfrey.
  • In 1999, Morrison branched out to children's literature. She worked with her son Slade on The Big BoxThe Book of Mean People (2002) and The Ant or the Grasshopper? (2003).
  • From 1989 until her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University.
  • On November 17, 2017, Princeton University dedicated Morrison Hall (a building previously called West College) in her honor.
  • Morrison died at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, on August 5th, 2019, from complications of pneumonia. She was 88 years old.

(Sources: BiographyWikipediaBrittanica)


  • On letting go: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.”
  • On love: “Love is or it ain't. Thin love ain't love at all.”
  • On black people: “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.”
  • On raising children: “You need a whole community to raise a child. I have raised two children, alone.”
  • On her first novel: “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”
  • On Black Boys: “Black boys became criminalized. I was in constant dread for their lives, because they were targets everywhere. They still are.”


During her Nobel Prize speech, Toni Morrison on death and the meaning of life:

[“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”] SOUNDCUE (:15 OC . . . of our lives]



  • In 1794, France abolished slavery. The nation continued to have a lukewarm commitment to abolition, and under Napoleon Bonaparte, re-established slavery in 1802 along with the reinstitution of the "Code noir" prohibiting blacks, mulattoes, and other people of color from entering French colonial territory or intermarrying with whites.
  • In 1820, the Mayflower of Liberia, the first organized emigration of blacks back to Africa, left New York for Sierra Leone with 86 black people.
  • In 1867, the Peabody Fund was established to promote education for the young and destitute people of the South and Southwest.
  • In 1898, Melvin B. Tolson, author of Rendezvous with America and Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, was born.
  • In 1986, A stamp featuring Sojourner Truth was issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
  • In 1996, J.C. Watts became the first black selected to respond to a State Of The Union address.
  • In 1988, Michael Jordan makes his signature slam dunk from the free throw line inspiring Air Jordan and the Jumpman logo.
  • In 1993, Arthur Ashe died from AIDS-related pneumonia at New York Hospital at age 49.



Politician, educator and Brooklyn native Shirley Chisholm survived three assassination attempts during her campaign for the 1972 Democratic nomination to the U.S. presidency.

(Source: Biography)



Who founded Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, one of the leading African-American educational institutions in America, in 1881:

A) Booker T. Washington

B) George Washington Carver

C) Frederick Douglass

The answer is B) Booker T. Washington



Arthur Ashe was the first black professional tennis player ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team. He also won three grand slam titles throughout his career and was also the only black man to ever win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open. He is also remembered for his efforts to further social causes.

Arthur Ashe was born on July 10, 1943 in Richmond, Virginia. In 1963, he was awarded a scholarship to UCLA. That same year, Ashe became the first black player ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team. After winning awards throughout his college career, he turned pro in 1969. In 1970, Ashe won his second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.

  • In 1975, Ashe won Wimbledon, defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He also won the season ending championship WCT Finals. Arthur played for a few more years, but after being slowed by heart surgery in 1979, he retired in 1980.
  • Ashe remains the only black man to ever win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open. He is one of only two men of black African ancestry to win a Grand Slam singles title, the other being France's metis Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983.
  • Arthur Ashe died of AIDS related pneumonia in 1993.