Don’t Forget About Toni Morrison’s Work as an Editor

Her nurturing of Black authors changed the publishing world

Photo: Jack Mitchell / Getty Images

Toni Morrison is largely known and revered as a Pulitzer- and Nobel-winning novelist. She’s sometimes remembered as an influential college professor, and as a stirring orator. But she also worked at Random House for many years as a book editor, as Arielle Gray writes in ZORA. Gray notes that in 1967, when Morrison first started working at Random House, the book publishing world was overwhelmingly White (and in fact, still is). “Her 19-year career there made her the first Black woman editor at her level in Random House company history,” writes Gray:

When we think of an editor, we think of notes in the margins, strikethroughs, and (lots of) corrections. But Morrison’s role went beyond annotating and adjusting manuscripts. She was a caretaker of a blossoming universe of Black literature, stewarding a cadre of writers and thinkers who would change the world. Morrison considered everything, from book jacket designs to which cover colors would catch the eye in bookstore windows. Her hands played a part in everything, including the advertising of the books she edited to ensure the works reached the eyes of literary critics and academics.

For more on how Morrison helped to create a home for Black writers, read Gray’s whole article here:

Senior Editor, Forge @ Medium // Bylines: New York Times, Oprah, Slate // Latest novel: Unseen City https://bookshop.org/books/unseen-city-9781662028106/9781597

Sign up for Up to Speed

By Momentum

A newsletter by Momentum that keeps the conversation going Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Momentum is a blog that captures and reflects the moment we find ourselves in, one where rampant anti-Black racism is leading to violence, trauma, protest, reflection, sorrow, and more. Momentum doesn’t look away when the news cycle shifts.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store