On Aug. 5, writer Toni Morrison died at the age of 88.
Morrison—prolific author of 11 novels, professor emeritus at Princeton University and 1993 Nobel laureate in literature—left a profound legacy with works such as Beloved, Song of Solomon, and Sula.
Quotes from Morrison's written and spoken addresses have been shared widely in the days since her death, as people re-examine her work and her nuanced discussions of race in America—and some of those quotes come from a talk and panel discussion Morrison participated in at Portland State University in 1975.
The talk was recorded on reel-to-reel tapes and stashed in a PSU warehouse for years, until five years ago, when the school's head of the library special collections unearthed the tapes and converted them to digital format.
Soon after, the PSU address was revived by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who transcribed Morrison's full remarks on racism:
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
The full recording is well worth listening to in its entirety here.