Beloved is a 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War, it tells the story of a family of former slaves whose Cincinnati home is haunted by a malevolent spirit. Beloved is inspired by an event that actually happened: Margaret Garner, a slave in Kentucky, escaped and fled to the free state of Ohio in 1856. She was subject to capture in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; when U.S. marshals burst into the cabin where Garner and her husband had barricaded themselves, she was attempting to kill her children, and had already killed her two-year-old daughter, to spare them from being returned to slavery.
Morrison had come across an account of Garner titled “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.
The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award. It was adapted as a 1998 movie of the same name, starring Oprah Winfrey. A survey of writers and literary critics compiled by The New York Times ranked it as the best work of American fiction from 1981 to 2006.