Author Toni Morrison, celebrated for her novels “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon,” was inducted into the elite Legion of Honor Society on Nov. 3 at the Paris Ministry in France.
According to the Associated Press, France’s Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand pinned the 79-year-old writer with a red and gold medal, officially marking her as an officer in the prestigious society.
“I want to tell you that you incarnate what’s most beautiful about America…(that) which gives a Black child, born during segregation into a modest family in a medium-sized Ohio city an exceptional destiny,” Mitterrand told Morrison, according to the AP. “You were the first woman writer to tell the painful history of Afro-Americans.” He then proceeded to read an excerpt from the French translation of Morrison’s novel “Jazz.”
Morrison took the podium following Mitterrand’s introduction.
“I’ve always felt welcomed in France and especially in Paris, and it’s important to me, the receipt of this medal, the Legion of Honor, because now I know in addition to being welcomed, I am prized,” Morrison said at the ceremony, according to the AP.
Morrison, born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, is a graduate of Howard University, according to A&E’s Biography.com. She rose to prominence following the publication of her novels “Sula” and “Song of Solomon,” both released in the ‘70s. But her 1987 novel “Beloved” was considered to be her masterpiece, receiving several literary awards including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize. In 1998, “Beloved” was produced as a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
The Legion of Honor Award was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, 19th century military and political leader of France, who granted the award to civilians and soldiers for notable deeds, according to Blackvoices.com. Other African American recipients of the award include jazz artist Miles Davis, producer Quincy Jones and singer Shirley Bassey.