Toni Morrison, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such titles as "Beloved" and "The Bluest Eye," died Monday night, her publicist and family confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday.
She was 88 years old.
The cause of death was not immediately revealed, but her family said she had "a short illness" and Morrison had been at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York at the time of her death, her publicist said.
Oprah Winfrey, who featured Morrison as a guest on her show and who featured her books as selections for her book club, took to social media Tuesday to honor the "Empress-Supreme" with a moving tribute.
“In the beginning was the Word. Toni Morrison took the word and turned it into a Song...of Solomon, of Sula, Beloved, Mercy, Paradise Love, and more," Winfrey's post began. "She was our conscience. Our seer. Our truth-teller."
Morrison was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for "Beloved" and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, and former President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. Obama shared his fond words in a social media post of his own.
"Her writing was not just beautiful but meaningful—a challenge to our conscience and a call to greater empathy," he wrote. "She was as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. And so even as Michelle and I mourn her loss and send our warmest sympathies to her family and friends, we know that her stories—that our stories—will always be with us, and with those who come after, and on and on, for all time."
Beyond her accolades, her decades-long writing career has inspired many readers, and those who have pursued careers in writing, to put pen to paper after reading such works as "Song of Solomon," "Sula" and "Paradise."
On Tuesday, as word of her death spread, many other notable figures took to social media to pay tribute to the iconic writer.
“Something that is loved is never lost"...encouraging words from the beloved author #ToniMorrison that we can surely use today. So sad to hear of the passing of the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize… https://t.co/7FkcdVOyMW— Robin Roberts (@RobinRoberts) August 6, 2019
She made me understand“writer” was a fine profession. I grew up wanting to be only her. Dinner with her was a night I will never forget. Rest, Queen. “Toni Morrison, seminal author who stirringly chronicled the Black American experience, dies” https://t.co/S6qxix5OCj— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) August 6, 2019
"If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it," Toni Morrison said.
We are all so lucky to live in a world where she took her own advice and shared it with others.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 6, 2019
In the passing of Toni Morrison, we lost one of our greatest voices & storytellers. Holding close those touched by her being & her gift. Her work gave us power, hope & freedom. While our world shines a little less bright today, we know "something that is loved is never lost."— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison was a towering intellect, a brilliant scribe of our nation’s complex stories, a heartbreaking journalist of our deepest desires, and a groundbreaking author who destroyed precepts, walls and those who dared underestimate her capacity. Rest well and in peace. pic.twitter.com/nMkxXRtEoz— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison was a world-class human being. Her words stirred our souls & challenged our consciences to confront injustice, large or small, wherever it exists. How blessed we are that she gave us her gifts. Hillary and I are grateful for her life and the kindness she showed us. pic.twitter.com/ZCSPFCma1F— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) August 6, 2019
“If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have a serious problem.”
~Toni Morrison pic.twitter.com/y3ui3uVGPL— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) August 6, 2019
“If you look at the world as a brutal game, then you bump into the mystery of the tree-shaped scar. There seems to be such a thing as grace, such a thing as beauty, such a thing as harmony. All of which are wholly free and available to us.” Your life was our gift, #ToniMorrison pic.twitter.com/wcD7w9zKYp— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison's powerful writing taught us all new ways to lead, new ways to fight, and reminds us of the humanity in others. As I think about her passing, her words fill me with hope. “Your life is already a miracle of chance waiting for you to shape its destiny.” https://t.co/5fFf7u5DeH— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 6, 2019
“We die, that may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” RIP Toni Morrison (1931-2019)— RainnWilson (@rainnwilson) August 6, 2019
Her words were like mirrors to our collective souls. Like pillows to cushion the blows. Like mothers to wrap us in love. Like friends to hold our hands and see us through the darkness. #RipToniMorrison ❤ you. May we lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there.— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) August 6, 2019
"If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else." -Toni Morrison
Today we lost an American legend. May she rest in peace. https://t.co/DInZvd8stY— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 6, 2019
“Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.” – Toni Morrison— Gabby Sidibe (@GabbySidibe) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison passed today and there are no words for a brilliant wordsmith, a woman whose roots in our world took, allowed countless millions to a tour worlds unknown. She was power at its best.. a great great woman. She was one for the ages...condolences to her family— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) August 6, 2019
The World is standing still in homage to one of the greatest literary treasures of all time. Thank You Toni Morrison. We will forever speak your name.🙏🏽❤️ pic.twitter.com/fb3XlTzZlE— Debbie Allen (@msdebbieallen) August 6, 2019
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
I cannot imagine growing up in a world without her words. I pray you rest In Peace and in Power.— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) August 6, 2019
We will celebrate you with endless gratitude and love. Always.
My mom gave me my first Toni Morrison book one summer when I was in high school. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I read it. It was the moment I learned that books are magic. That Toni Morrison’s words… https://t.co/nIxMeg32a9— Sarah Rafferty (@sarahgrafferty) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison rocked me as a teenager when I read Beloved. Her words, her stories, deep into your cells and stay forever. God bless you for what you have given this world. Rest In Peace. 🙏🏻— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison. While you have left the physical realm, the many treasures you left us will bear fruit for generations and generations. Your work has cascaded through my life deeply and simply...rest in power to a beloved icon. pic.twitter.com/YQPS3gR5Ml— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison’s words cut through ignorance and deception like a hot knife through butter. Her legacy lives on in the millions of brown girls and boys she inspired to pick up a pen and tell the truth. pic.twitter.com/SDtZOL4DWQ— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) August 6, 2019
The brilliance of Toni Morrison can only be explained by her own words! Rest In Power pic.twitter.com/0L5vkTWDJx— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) August 6, 2019
#ToniMorrison has died. Just when we most need to hear her voice, she is gone. Thank you for the insights, the stories, and the poetry of your thought that have enriched us all these many years. Lay your burden down.— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) August 6, 2019
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Toni Morrison. I’m deeply sadden to share that one of our greatest writers and minds in American History, Toni Morrison, passed away at the age of 88. May God Bless Her Soul. pic.twitter.com/Dq1UL4ENIY— COMMON (@common) August 6, 2019
I'm writing in her honor today. All day if I can. Rest in Power to a true queen.— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) August 6, 2019
Spelman College celebrates the life and legacy of novelist and scholar Toni Morrison. Generations of Spelmanites have studied her work and been changed by her words. pic.twitter.com/8jknGfJdjb— Spelman College (@SpelmanCollege) August 6, 2019
"You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down." — Toni Morrison
A lesson for each of us. A lesson for our country. She may be gone, but her writing, her resolve, and her grace will live on forever.— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 6, 2019
Today, the world lost a storyteller of unmatched empathy, elegance and power. Toni Morrison’s belief that language is the “measure of our lives” leaves an extraordinary, inspiring inheritance, and her beautiful writing will continue to be a blessing for generations to come. pic.twitter.com/cc3st7x2lM— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison. First of Her Name. Architect of Words. Acclaimed Author. Teller of Truths. Shifter of Culture. Netter of Nobel Prize. Writing Domino. Legendary Laureate.
Long may her works reign. pic.twitter.com/4aoLdoU4XA— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) August 6, 2019
For giving us stories the world needed, but hardly heard before you; for sharing your gift with words at their most visceral; for being a force and making history—thank you, Toni Morrison. pic.twitter.com/F6vt22cbwV— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) August 6, 2019
“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
Holding all those touched by Toni Morrison in my heart today. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2jkAvtaErK— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 6, 2019
Thank you Toni Morrison for sharing your many gifts with us. “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” - Toni Morrison Song of Solomon— Tamron Hall (@tamronhall) August 6, 2019
A towering figure in literature, Toni Morrison, has passed. Winner of the Nobel Prize, and keeper and storyteller for so much of our nation's soul, she was truly Beloved to us all. Rest now, and let us honor you as a nation eternally grateful for your contribution.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 6, 2019
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison RIP pic.twitter.com/0K1AZtoll6— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) August 6, 2019
💔💔💔🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽— Holly🌸Robinson🌸Peete (@hollyrpeete) August 6, 2019
Toni Morrison, ‘Beloved’ Author and Nobel Laureate, Dies at 88 https://t.co/O50eLFrP5J
“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
Remembering Toni Morrison with unspeakable gratitude today.August 6, 2019
“Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” Thank you, Toni Morrison, for the beauty you revealed in our world. Rest in Peace.— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) August 6, 2019