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:

Content Lead for Writing @ Medium // Editor of Human Parts // Novels: Unseen City; The Mermaid of Brooklyn; How Far Is The Ocean From Here

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