Communicator of the Month: Beloved by Toni Morrison

Original artwork showcasing the cover of Beloved by Toni Morrison

Our Communicator of the Month series showcases individuals whose voices have made a lasting impact on our country. Over the past few years, more and more narratives — often those that explore love, representation and experience — have been labeled dangerous to our society. From environmental awareness to racial justice, storytellers have used their books to open our eyes, walk us in the shoes of others and move many to action.

In 2024, we celebrate 12 impactful authors and their books that have helped us to be better listeners and more informed activists. Through their words, they teach us to see and to care about the people around us and the world we live in.

“Black literature is taught as sociology, as tolerance, not as a serious, rigorous art form.” — Toni Morrison

Published in 1987, Toni Morrison’s Beloved stands as a poignant masterpiece. The novel delves into the aftermath of slavery, unraveling deep layers of trauma through the life of Sethe, a Black woman haunted by her past.

Through the portrayal of her characters, Morrison explores the enduring impact of slavery, illustrating how the past continues to shape the present. The book’s powerful storytelling evokes a strong empathy for the characters, inviting readers to confront the painful legacy of America’s past.

Beloved not only sheds light on the historical atrocities of slavery but also examines the complexities of motherhood, identity and the human psyche. Sethe’s maternal instincts and her willingness to make unimaginable sacrifices for her children highlight the strength and resilience of an enslaved Black woman. This depiction has sparked crucial discussions about the intersectionality of race and gender, as well as the legacy of slavery and its ongoing impact on individuals and communities throughout the U.S., emphasizing the importance of recognizing and uplifting marginalized voices.

Morrison’s work challenged traditional notions of literature, helping to humanize the historical narrative of slavery. After winning the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Beloved remains a seminal work in American literature, challenging readers to reckon with the enduring consequences of slavery and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable suffering. The novel continues to shape cultural conversations and influence future generations of writers, scholars and activists, leaving a lasting impact on society.

Interested in learning more about slavery’s impact on identity in post-Civil War America? Beloved is available online and in most public libraries.

Toni Morrison was an influential American novelist, essayist, editor and professor, celebrated for her profound exploration of African American experiences and identities in her works. Her writing left an indelible mark on literature and earned her numerous accolades, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.