Former US President Barack Obama and pop singer Beyoncé have led tributes to the late Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
The author of seminal works on the black experience including Beloved and Sula died yesterday aged 88, her publisher Alfred A. Knopf confirmed.
In reaction to the news of her passing, Obama, along with a host of other political figures and celebrities, such as Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, paid tribute to Morrison and lauded the impact and importance of her writing.
"Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page," Obama wrote on Twitter.
"Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while."
Winfrey, who worked together with Morrison on the 1988 film version of Beloved, declared the author "our Conscience, Our Seer, Our Truth-Teller", in a lengthy and emotional Instagram post.
"In the beginning was the Word. Toni Morrison took the word and turned it into a Song…of Solomon, of Sula, Beloved, Mercy, Paradise Love, and more," began Winfrey's post, which was accompanied by a picture of the pair together from Morrison's first appearance on the Oprah Show.
"She was our conscience. Our seer. Our truth-teller. She was a magician with language, who understood the Power of words. She used them to roil us, to wake us, to educate us and help us grapple with our deepest wounds and try to comprehend them.
"It is exhilarating and life-enhancing every time I read and share her work.
"She was Empress-Supreme among writers. Long may her WORDS reign!"
Pop star Beyoncé was more succinct, posting a short quote from Morrison's Song of Solomon on her website's homepage: ″'If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.' Rest in paradise."
Clinton also referenced Morrison's words and praised her influence on the literature community and readers of her work around the world.
″'If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it,' Toni Morrison said," Clinton posted on Twitter. "We are all so lucky to live in a world where she took her own advice and shared it with others."
Canadian poet, novelist and literary critic Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale, issued a statement detailing her sadness at Morrison's passing and saying Beloved was a book that "should be read by all".
"I was very saddened to hear of the death of the great American novelist Toni Morrison, a giant of her times and ours," said Atwood. "Her novel, Beloved, is a heartbreaking testimony to the ongoing ravages of slavery, and should be read by all. That her strong voice will now be missing in this age of the renewed targeting of minorities in the United States and elsewhere is a tragedy for the rest of us."
US Senator Bernie Sanders also took to Twitter to share his tribute, writing: "'If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.' -Toni Morrison. Today we lost an American legend. May she rest in peace."
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, director of this year's documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, also issued a statement lamenting the passing of his long-time friend.
"I've been privileged to know Toni Morrison for nearly 40 years. During that time, she won many awards and accolades — the Nobel, a Pulitzer, the Presidential Medal of Freedom," he said.
"But for me, Toni has been a treasured collaborator, a monumental inspiration and, most importantly, a cherished friend.
"We will all miss her, but the gifts she left us — her written works that have transformed so many lives around the world — live on...to educate, empower and nourish us. For this and all she shared with us, I say thank you Toni. My deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends."
- Additional reporting by AP