American Masters


Full Trailer | Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers and critics on an exploration of the powerful themes she confronted throughout her literary career in this artful and intimate meditation that examines the life and work of the legendary storyteller.

AIRED: June 01, 2020 | 0:02:16

- My grandfather bragged all the time,

that he had read the Bible,

and it was illegal in his life to read.

Ultimately, I knew that words have power.

- I wanted as many people who could hear my voice

to understand the importance of her work.

Get people to trust that, oh, this is something safe,

and then bam, hit 'em with Toni Morrison.

- One of the earlier reviews says she's got a great talent.

One day, she won't limit it

to only writing about black people, like, really,

it's limiting for her to write about black people?

- People began to buy Toni Morrison,

and then we began to teach her,

and as a consequence, they had to pay attention.

- [Interviewer] I know you get sickened to death

of being labeled the black writer.

- I prefer it.

- Oh, I thought you probably were tired of it.

- Well I'm tired of people asking the question.

(audience laughing) - Oh, oh yes, of course.

- [Man] I don't know where this woman's energy came from

to raise two kids, to bring other people of color

to the party, and also write these novels.

- [Another Man] Toni was an editor at Random House.

- Navigating a white male world

was not threatening, it wasn't even interesting,

I was more interesting than they were.

(camera clicking)

And I wasn't afraid to show it.

(upbeat music)

- Suddenly, the cannon wasn't the private property

of white male writers.

- I've thrown this book across the room

and then walked down the steps laughing,

like, you read Toni and you cry, but you gotta laugh.

Texas Bureau of Corrections banned "Paradise",

because it might insight a riot,

and I thought, how powerful is that.


(upbeat music)

- When Toni Morrison published "Beloved",

it was an extraordinary turning point,

we can never think about slavery in the same way.

- A friend of mine called me up early in the morning

and said, "Toni, you won the Nobel prize."

And I remember holding the phone, thinking,

she must be drunk.

- Toni Morrison's work shows us, through pain,

all the myriad ways we can come to love.

That is what she does, with some words on a page.

(upbeat music)


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