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Oprah, Shonda Rhimes and more share moving stories about Toni Morrison's powerful legacy

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Toni Morrison

From Oprah to Shonda Rhimes, here are the most incredible stories about the power and legacy of the late author.

“We die,” Toni Morrison said in her 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech. “That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

Words were the late author’s gift, language the meaning and measure of the life that she gave to so many through her work. In that Nobel Prize speech, which Morrison was awarded for her work on the Beloved trilogy, the author elucidated the importance of storytelling. “Word work is sublime, she thinks, because it is generative,” Morrison said. “It makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life.”

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Toni Morrison’s powerful quotes will lift you up when you need it most

Morrison’s words have echoed around the internet over the past day as the world responds to the news of her death. The author was 88 and one of the most decorated and celebrated authors in the world. Throughout her career, which began when she penned her first novel at 39, she gave voice to the black experience, put into words the story of so many lives.

Here, Morrison’s fans, celebrity friends (and celebrity fans) share their stories about what Morrison meant to them: 

  • Oprah on Morrison’s strength and skill

  • Shonda Rhimes on learning from Morrison

  • Barack Obama on understanding Morrison’s words

  • Stacey Abrams on Morrison’s power

  • Kerry Washington on growing up with Morrison’s words

  • Author Roxane Gay on interviewing Morrison

  • Tracee Ellis Ross on the lessons she learnt from Morrison

  • Author Jodi Picoult on hearing Morrison speak

  • Writer Alanna Bennett on Morrison’s legacy

  • A fan remembers Morrison’s response to what gives her pleasure

  • A woman remembers meeting Morrison for the first time

  • Ally Carter remembers Morrison quietly putting a man in his place

  • Sarah Jackson recalls what it was like to hear about someone reading Toni Morrison for the first time

  • Anne Daniel recalls seeing Morrison on the campus at Princeton

Images: Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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