After news broke this morning that Toni Morrison—one of the 20th century’s greatest novelists and most prominent voices on race and gender in America—has died at 88, devoted readers of her work shared messages of how Morrison’s writing inspired and changed them.
Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while. pic.twitter.com/JG7Jgu4p9t
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 6, 2019
Morrison, whose novels include The Bluest Eye and Beloved, has roots in Washington. The Ohio-born author may have lived much of her life in New York, but she attended Howard University and graduated in 1953. The author returned to Howard in 1957 to teach, and it was there that she joined a group of writers and wrote the short story that later became The Bluest Eye.
If you want to pay your respects in DC, you might consider stopping by the National Portrait Gallery, where a painting by Robert McCurdy is part of the 20th Century Americans exhibit. The portrait is in McCurdy’s signature style, in which the subject faces the viewer directly and appears to lock eyes with observers.
The lifelike painting is on a colorful wall in the center of a third floor room, where it will now be marked with a small sign in her honor, according to a National Portrait Gallery spokesperson. Typically, if a painting of a person who recently died is not on display, the Portrait Gallery moves it to an “In Memoriam” wall on the first floor. But because Morrison’s portrait is already in a prominent location within the museum, the plaque serves to commemorate her legacy.