25 Toni Morrison Quotes That Left Me Shook

Toni Morrison speaking in 2008

Sunday marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Toni Morrison, the first black woman to receive the prestigious award. Although the honor wasn’t necessary to validate the importance of Morrison’s thought-provoking vision and moving stories that have altered the way we traditionally understand what fiction does,  her acceptance speech  gives just a 30-minute glimpse into the depths of Morrison’s wisdom that often leaves one physically and emotionally shook. To commemorate the legacy of that speech, here are 25 Toni Morrison quotes that’ll spiritually snatch your heart, soul and edges of your skin.


  1. “Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.”– from her Nobel Peace Prize Lecture
  2.    If you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down”- from Song of Solomon
  3.  “If you find a book that you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
  4. “She’s a friend of my mind. She gathers me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them right back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” – from Beloved
  5. “I think all good art is political. None of the best writing, the best thoughts have been anything other than that.” – Morrison on the Black Arts Movement in the 1970’s

    Toni Morrison from the 80s
  6. “Freeing yourself was one thing. Claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
  7. “You are your best thing.” – from Beloved
  8. “The concept of physical beauty as a virtue is one of the the dumbest, most pernicious and destructive ideas of the Western world, and we should have nothing to do with it.”
  9. “There is really nothing more to say except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.” from The Bluest Eye
  10. “Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting ,for you to make it art.”
  11. “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”
  12. “ Being a black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination; it expands it. It’s richer than being a white male writer because I know more and I’ve experienced more.”
  13. “Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.”
  14. “Which was what love was: unmotivated respect” – from Paradise
  15. “If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”
  16. “The function of freedom is to free someone else.”
  17. “[Race] is both an empty category and one of the most destructive and powerful forms of social categorization.”
  18. “Definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.”
  19. “She lived out her days exploring her own thoughts and emotions, giving them full reign. Feeling no obligation to please anybody unless the pleasure pleased her.”
  20. “Love is never any better than the lover.”
  21. “Don’t ever think I fell for you or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love; I rose in it.”
  22. “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.”
  23. “In this country, American means white; everybody else has to hyphenate.”
  24. “All water has perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
  25. “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”


DeAsia Paige is a student journalist and blogger who loves, sleep, food, and Solange.