Beloved is a novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War (1861–1865), it is inspired by the story of an African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who temporarily escaped slavery during 1856 in Kentucky by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. A posse arrived to retrieve her and her children under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which gave slave owners the right to pursue slaves across state borders. Margaret killed her two-year-old daughter rather than allow her to be recaptured.
Beloved's main character, Sethe, kills her daughter and tries to kill her other three children when a posse arrives in Ohio to return them to Sweet Home, the plantation in Kentucky from which Sethe recently fled. A woman presumed to be her daughter, called Beloved, returns years later to haunt Sethe's home at 124 Bluestone Road, Cincinnati. The story opens with an introduction to the ghost: "124 were spiteful. Full of a baby's venom."
The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. It was adapted during 1998 into a movie of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey. During 2006 a New York Times survey of writers and literary critics ranked it as the best work of American fiction of the past 25 years.