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Author Toni Morrison’s mother, Ella Ramah Willis, was born in Greenville, and moved with her parents, Ardelia and John Solomon Willis, to Ohio in 1910 as part of the great northern migration.

Morrison, born Chloe Anthony Wofford, would later go on to become the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Morrison long credited her mother’s storytelling ability – as well that of her Greenville-born-grandparents – for inspiring her own writing.

It was the stories of her mother’s family which she used as a springboard for her 1977 novel “Song of Solomon.”

It earned the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1978, has been named one of the 25 best English-language novels of the 20th century, and is President Barack Obama’s favorite novel.

When he awarded Morrison the 2021 Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Obama cited “Song of Solomon as a book that helped shape his life.

Morrison was also the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning “Beloved.”

When she died in 2019, she was one of the most awarded and recognized writers of her generation and an inspiration for millions.

From the publication “Six Facts about Black History in Butler County” by the Greenville-Butler County Public Library.

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