Introduction

Toni Morrison’s third novel, Song of Solomon, established her as a major American writer. The story of a black man’s search for his identity through a discovery of his family history, it became a best-seller and drew praise from readers and critics when it was published in 1977. The novel has been especially admired for the beauty of its language and its grounding of universal Themes in the particularity of the African American experience, as well as for its use of folklore.

Song of Solomon is based on an African American folktale about slaves who can fly back to Africa when they choose. Morrison fictionalizes this folktale through the character of Solomon, the great-grandfather of the story’s protagonist, Milkman Dead. Through his discovery of the story of Solomon and his ability to fly, Milkman learns to take pride in his ancestry and to value his connections to family and community. Song of Solomon won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1977. It is now widely taught, and appeared again on best-seller lists when it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for inclusion in her book club. Beloved by readers for more than twenty years, it is still considered one of Morrison’s best books.