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95 Toni Morrison Quotes on Writing, Love, and Life To Inspire You Today

These Toni Morrison quotes read like a true work of literary art.

Norbert Juma
Published on February 17, 2020 6:00 AM EST
Toni Morrison quotes

Born as Chloe Ardelia Wofford, Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist famous for her rich use of language and unforgettable African-American characters. From her first novel, “The Bluest Eye”, she continued penning great works such as “Sula”, “Song of Solomon”, and the critically-acclaimed “Beloved”. She also taught at Princeton University and held workshops for aspiring writers.

Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison’s parents had instilled a deep sense of heritage and language in their daughter through songs and stories. Despite being surrounded by racism, her family held their head high and showed her at a young age, that you can keep your integrity regardless of how people tried to put you down.

Toni Morrison quotes

Morrison remains to this day as one of the most influential writers of our time. Many people look to her works and lectures for inspiration or empowerment. Learn from her wisdom and strength through these timeless Toni Morrison quotes collected just for you.

Don’t forget to also read our collection of Ernest Hemingway quotes and Dale Carnegie quotes, as well as these Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes that are full of timeless wisdom.

Best Toni Morrison Quotes About Writing, Love and Life

1. “You are your best thing.” – Toni Morrison

2. “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

3. “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

4. “If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.” – Toni Morrison

5. “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” – Toni Morrison

6. “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

7. “Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you?” – Toni Morrison

8. “You can’t own a human being. You can’t lose what you don’t own.” – Toni Morrison

9. “Make up a story…For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light.” – Toni Morrison

10. “Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” – Toni Morrison

11. “As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

12. “What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?” – Toni Morrison

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Also check out these inspirational writing quotes that will get you writing your story.

Inspiring Toni Morrison Quotes about Love

13. “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.” – Toni Morrison

14. “Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can’t even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through, because the clouds let him; they don’t wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him.” – Toni Morrison

15. “Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.” – Toni Morrison

16. “You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

17. “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe.” – Toni Morrison

18. “There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up, holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind–wrapped tight like skin.” – Toni Morrison

19. “Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another – physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.” – Toni Morrison

20. “Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

21. “And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing.” – Toni Morrison

22. “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” – Toni Morrison

23. “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” – Toni Morrison

24. “Let me tell you something. A man ain’t a goddamn ax. Chopping, hacking, busting every goddamn minute of the day. Things get to him. Things he can’t chop down because they’re inside.” – Toni Morrison

25. “To get to a place where you could love anything you chose – not to need permission for desire – well now that was freedom.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

26. “Something that is loved is never lost.” – Toni Morrison

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Don’t forget to also read these quotes from Margaret Mead challenging societal stereotypes.

Toni Morrison Quotes and Sayings on Writing

27. “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.” – Toni Morrison

28. “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” – Toni Morrison

29. “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

30. “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. ‘” – Toni Morrison

31. “Anger…it’s a paralyzing emotion…you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling — I don’t think it’s any of that — it’s helpless…” – Toni Morrison

32. “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” – Toni Morrison

33. “Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

34. “Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.” – Toni Morrison

35. “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” – Toni Morrison

36. “Some things you forget. Other things you never do.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

37. “It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you.” – Toni Morrison

38. “Writing is really a way of thinking – not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.” – Toni Morrison

39. “The presence of evil was something to be first recognized, then dealt with, survived, outwitted, triumphed over.” – Toni Morrison

40. “What’s the world for you if you can’t make it up the way you want it?” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison Quotes

Don’t forget to also read these quotes from black women to keep you motivated.

Toni Morrison quotes that will expand your mind

41. “How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it.”― Toni Morrison

42. “What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”― Toni Morrison

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43. “I’m not entangled in shaping my work according to other people’s views of how I should have done it.”― Toni Morrison

44. “I want to feel what I feel. What’s mine. Even if it’s not happiness, whatever that means. Because you’re all you’ve got.”― Toni Morrison

45. “I don’t think many people appreciate silence or realize that it is as close to music as you can get.”― Toni Morrison

46. “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.”― Toni Morrison

47. “Correct what you can; learn from what you can’t.”― Toni Morrison

48. “We never shape the world . . . the world shapes us.”― Toni Morrison

49. “The human body is robust. It can gather strength when it’s in mortal danger.”― Toni Morrison

50. “I get angry about things, then go on and work.”― Toni Morrison

51. “If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”― Toni Morrison

52. “Hate does that. Burns off everything but itself, so whatever your grievance is, your face looks just like your enemy’s.”― Toni Morrison

53. “When fear rules, obedience is the only survival choice.”― Toni Morrison

54. “The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.”― Toni Morrison

55. “A good man is a good thing, but there is nothing in the world better than a good woman. She can be your mother, your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, or somebody you work next to. Don’t matter. You find one, stay there. You see a scary one, make tracks.”― Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison quotes to broaden your thoughts

56. “When am I happy and when am I sad and what is the difference? What do I need to know to stay alive? What is true in the world?”― Toni Morrison

57. “You are about to find out what it takes, how the world is, how it works and how it changes when you are a parent. Good luck and God help the child.”― Toni Morrison

58. “Black people are victims of an enormous amount of violence. None of those things can take place without the complicity of the people who run the schools and the city.”― Toni Morrison

59. “This is the it you’ve been looking for.”― Toni Morrison

60. “Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this.”― Toni Morrison

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61. “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”― Toni Morrison

62. “No more running-from nothing. I will never run from another thing on this Earth. I took one journey and I paid for the ticket, but let me tell you something, Paul D. Garner: it cost too much!”― Toni Morrison

63. “Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created.”
Toni Morrison

64. “Can’t nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”― Toni Morrison

65. “I think some aspects of writing can be taught. Obviously, you can’t teach vision or talent. But you can help with comfort.”― Toni Morrison

You might also like these thought-provoking Virginia Woolf quotes for understanding life itself.

Insightful Toni Morrison quotes

66. “Birth, life, and death― each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.”
Toni Morrison

67. “You got a life? Live it! Live the motherfuckin life!”― Toni Morrison

68. “I sold my elegant blackness to all those childhood ghosts and now they pay me for it.”― Toni Morrison

69. “Death is a sure thing but life is just as certain. Problem is you can’t know in advance.”― Toni Morrison

70. “The best art is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time.”― Toni Morrison

71. “Nothing could be counted on in a world where even when you were a solution you were a problem.”― Toni Morrison

72. “No gasp at a miracle that is truly miraculous because the magic lies in the fact that you knew it was there for you all along.”― Toni Morrison

73. “It may even be that some of us know what it is like to be actually hated—hated for things we have no control over and cannot change.”― Toni Morrison

74. “Pain was greedy; it demanded all of her attention.”― Toni Morrison

75. “I want to feel what I feel. Even if it’s not happiness.”― Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison quotes to inspire and teach

76. “When I woke up I reminded myself that freedom is never free. You have to fight for it. Work for it and make sure you are able to handle it. Now.”― Toni Morrison

77. “Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it, summon it, from even the most tragic of circumstances.”― Toni Morrison

78. “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, stupid people love stupidly, weak people love weakly . . .”― Toni Morrison

79. “I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”― Toni Morrison

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80. “What a man leaves behind is what a man is.”― Toni Morrison

81. “It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”― Toni Morrison

82. “Don’t let anybody, anybody convince you this is the way the world is and therefore must be. It must be the way it ought to be.”― Toni Morrison

83. “Somewhere inside you is that free person I’m talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world.”― Toni Morrison

84. “Race is the least reliable information you can have about someone. It’s real information, but it tells you next to nothing.”― Toni Morrison

85. “I always know the ending; that’s where I start.”― Toni Morrrison

More Toni Morrison quotes

86. “Wait, wait, wait, wait. Don’t try to write through it, to force it. Many do but that won’t work. Just wait, it will come.”― Toni Morrison

87. “Like friendship, hatred needed more than physical intimacy; it wanted creativity and hard work to sustain itself.”― Toni Morrison

88. “We will be judged by how well we love.”― Toni Morrison

89. “Let your face speak what’s in your heart.”― Toni Morrison

90. “Good is knowing when to stop.”― Toni Morrison

91. “You couldn’t learn age, but adulthood was there for all.”― Toni Morrison

92. “You just can’t mishandle creatures and expect success.”― Toni Morrison

93. “When good people take you in and treat you good, you ought to try to be good back.”― Toni Morrison

94. “For a long time now he knew that anything could appear to be something else, and probably was.”― Toni Morrison

95. “If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have serious problem.” ― Toni Morrison

Which of these Toni Morrison quotes is your favorite?

Toni Morrison’s amazing use of language can make even a non-reader love books. Having explored different types of writings (she also penned some children’s books), she is constantly changing and evolving in her field.

Although her books have sold millions of copies around the world, she maintains that:

“…everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it, to open doors, sometimes, not even closing the book – leaving the endings open for reinterpretation, re-visitation, a little ambiguity.” Her humbleness and solid values has kept her going strong through difficulties she faced in her life.

If you enjoyed these Toni Morrison quotes – or have been inspired by them – please don’t forget to share. Let someone else be moved by the beauty of her words today!

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    May 20, 2019 at 8:14 AM

    I really thought theses quotes were very powerful and inspiring. My favorite one was “You are your best thing.”

  2. Avatar

    C. Grace Korteweg

    February 18, 2019 at 9:07 PM

    Enjoyed or learned from all of them. The one I liked the best: Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.

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