Beloved is a 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War (1861–65), it is inspired by the story of an African-American slave, Sethe, who escaped slavery in Kentucky late January 1856 by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. Morrison had come across the story "A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child" in an 1856 newspaper article published in the American Baptist and reproduced in The Black Book, a miscellaneous compilation of black history and culture that Morrison edited in 1974.
Beloved begins in 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the protagonist Sethe, a former slave, has been living with her eighteen-year-old daughter Denver. Sethe's mother-in-law, Baby Suggs lived with them until her death eight years earlier. Just before Baby Suggs' death, Sethe's two sons, Howard and Buglar, run away. Sethe believes they fled because of the malevolent presence of an abusive ghost that haunted their house at 124 Bluestone Road for years. The story opens with an introduction to the ghost: "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom."
The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award. It was adapted during 1998 into a movie of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey. A New York Times survey of writers and literary critics ranked it the best work of American fiction from 1981 to 2006.
The book's dedication reads "Sixty Million and more", referring to the Africans and their descendants who died as a result of the Atlantic slave trade. The book's epigraph is Romans 9:25.