Toni Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in Lorain, Ohio in February 1931. (Morrison 7). Morrison was her maiden name, and Toni was her college nickname. She was the second of her family’s four daughters. Her boss, George Wofford, was a welder who also enjoyed playing the violin at home. Ramah Willis Wofford, her mum, was a housewife who enjoyed opera and jazz. Lorain was mostly an African American community. The majority of Lorain’s inhabitants, including Morison’s relatives, were impoverished. Furthermore, the south’s racial segregation restricted African-Americans equal access to jobs, recreation, healthcare, and schooling (Morrison 1). However, her parents refused to allow the discrimination and racial aspect to have any bearing on their children. The parents encouraged Morison to read at an early age and loved folklore and music along with perspective and clarity. The parents and the grandmother passed down the folk stories and bought new books. She became a precocious student and an avid reader.
The love for reading encouraged Toni Morrison to study hard and started writing her own books after graduation from college. Toni became a professor, editor, novelist and a Noble Prize Winner. She wrote novels with epic themes, exquisite language that is rich in detailed African American characters as the main narrators. Her best novels include Sula, The Bluest Eye, Songs of Solomon, A mercy, Jazz, Love, and Beloved. Other works include Recitatif which expose the existence of racism in African-American communities from an inside perspective. The paper examines the reasons that contributed or catalyst reflection African American community in many of her works, especially in Recitatif.
An overview of the life of Toni Morrison and the novel Recitatif
Racitaf is a short story that appeared in a 1983 anthology of African American women writer with the tilted Confirmation as edited by Baraka Amina (Greene 87). The novel narrates conflicted friendship between a black and a white girl. Twyla and Roberta met at an early age of eight and cemented their friendship while staying at an orphanage. They experienced different treated in the political, economic and racial divides in the gentrified city of upstate New York. The relationship between the two girlfriends shaped the difference in races as the core theme in the novel (Greene 88). The author, however, never disclosed the white or the black character. Instead, Toni delved between racism in America at large where the whites and blacks define themselves in opposition to one another. In other works such as Play in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literacy Imagination, Morrison explored how language enforces stereotypes in many works done by classic American writers such as Hemingway, Poe and Melville (Abel 19). Therefore “Recitafit” could be viewed as Morison’s response to the traditional or classic male and white American writers.
The different approach by the author expresses black communality experiences in a different way. The central theme in Morrison’s novel is the black American experience in the unjust American society (Greene 106). Many of her characters in the novel struggle with cultural identity. Toni uses Fantasy sensuous poetic writing style and mythic interweaving added great texture and strength to her stories.
The United States had segregated communities since the abolition of slave trade in the late 19th century. The declaration of freedom to the African slaves did not guarantee equal treatment from the former slave owners and the government. Particularly in the south, there were separate schools, restaurants, public transport and other public facilities. To illustrate the discrimination and oppression of the African community in the USA, Morison’s father once narrated of a tragic event. At fifteen, he experienced white people lynched two African American traders living on his street. Although he did not explain whether he had seen the body, the event seemed traumatizing. After the lynching, the father, George Wofford moved to Lorain, which was the racially integrated community to escape the southern racism (Dawes 5).
Morison’s father was a welder at steel company while Ramah was a homemaker. Morrison was about two years of age when the landlord set fire to the family’s house due to non-payment of rent. The family did not react in despair, rather, they laughed out loud at the landlord for the stupid act. In fact, Morison refers to this incident as a ‘bizarre form of evil’. The family remained intact and kept the integrity in claiming their life in the wake of the monumental crudeness (Morrison 1). The disparities in resources, stressors and parenting time contribute to racial achievement gap before children went to school. Morrison’s father could not afford a better school and had the child at an early age had to learn in the local schools attended by African-Americans only. Morrison was lucky to joining a white school in middle-grade and high school. The racial discrimination in the classes was overwhelming. However, that did not deter her from achieving the best grades and joining the Hayward University.
The social and economic disadvantages are other contributors that led to Toni Morrison’s works. She experienced economic and social disadvantage in Lorain and in school. The schools were located in high-poverty neighborhood deepens education inequality. The policy makers continuously made conventional that the residential isolation of the low-income earners thus hobbled the growing ignorance of the country’s racial history. The situation looked accidental due to demographic trend, economic status, private discrimination and personal preferences (Greene 88). Living in the poor neighborhood for multiple generations contributes to the additional barrier to economic prosperity and educational achievement. The historical segregation record was ‘de jure’ as result of effects of public policies that continue to grapple the county to date.
The United States constitution declared that the all men should be treated equally. However, in theory, the US guaranteed equal facilities to all but the blacks and whites lived a separate life that indicated the lack of equal opportunities (Greene 90). The two races lived a different life and had equal but separate public facilities. The black community in many states appeared inferior and could not share public utilities with the dominant whites.
In the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movements began that led to landmark court decisions on segregation. In 1954, the US Supreme Court overturned the 1896 High Court decision and ruled that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court allowed African-American students to attend the all-white schools. The ruling allowed for gradual integration of races in the public schools but the public and politicians resisted the ruling. The Arkansas state government defied the Supreme Court ruling and never allowed integration of black students into white public schools. The African-American opposed all other forms of segregation. Rosa Parks, in 1956, was using the public transport but refused to give up her seat to a white commuter bus in Alabama (Hasday 1). The African-Americans staged a year-long bus boycott after Parks was detained. Toni Morison factored in her early life experiences and the events happening around the world to craft the Recitafit short story.
Abel, Elizabeth. “Black Writing, White Reading: Race and the Politics of Feminist Interpretation.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 19, no. 3, Spring93, p. 472. EBSCOhostFrom http://web.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.ocean.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=19&sid=bca33b7f-f36c-424e-a8dcce403a2e9d22%40sessionmgr104&hid=128
Benjamin, Shanna Greene. “The Space That Race Creates: An Interstitial Analysis of Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif.” Studies in American Fiction, vol. 40, no. 1, Spring2013, pp. 87-106. EBSCOhostFrom http://web.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.ocean.edu:2048/ehost/detail/detail?vid=15&sid=bca33b7f-f36c-424e-a8dc-ce403a2e9d22%40sessionmgr104&hid=128&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl
Dawes, Kwame S. N. “CAREER, LIFE, and INFLUENCE: Biography of Toni Morrison.” Critical Insights: Toni Morrison, Jan. 2010, pp. 7-14. EBSCOhostFrom http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.ocean.edu:2048/lrc/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=188f3054-ff8b-490a-9485-01e2e94dbed5%40sessionmgr4010&vid=3&hid=4107
Hasday, Judy L. “Freedom Riders, and Civil Rights Protests.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Facts On File, 2007. African-American History, online.infobase.com/HRC/LearningCenter/Details/5?articleId=358423. Accessed May 15. 2017. From http://online.infobase.com.libproxy.ocean.edu:2048/HRC/LearningCenter/Details/5?articleId=358423
Morrison, Toni. Recitatif. The Norton Introduction to Literature, 12th Edition, 2016. Textbook.
Morrison, Toni.” Encyclopedia of African-American Literature, Second Edition, Facts On File, 2013. African-American History, online.infobase.com/HRC/Search/Details/27310?q=toni Morrison. Accessed May 15 2017.