AP Literature & Composition

Understanding Toni Morrison's Beloved

In our young minds houses belonged to women, were their special domain, not as property, but as places where all that truly mattered in life took place—the warmth and comfort of shelter, the feeding of our bodies, the nurturing of our souls. There we learned dignity, integrity of being; there we learned to have faith. The folks who made this life possible, who were our primary guides and teachers, were black women. . . . [It] has been primarily the responsibility of black women to construct domestic households as spaces of care and nurturance in the face of the brutal harsh reality of racist oppression, of sexist domination. Historically, African-American people believed.that the construction of a homeplace, however fragile and tenuous (the slave hut, the wooden shack) had a radical political dimension. . . . [O]ne’s homeplace was the one site where one could freely confront the issue of humanization, where one could resist. . . . This task of making homeplace . . . was about the construction of a safe place where black people could affirm one another and by so doing heal many of the wounds inflicted by racist domination. We could not learn to love or respect ourselves in the culture of white supremacy, on the outside; it was there on the inside, in that 'homeplace,' most often created and kept by black women, that we had the opportunity to grow and develop, to nurture our spirits. - bell hooks, "Homeplace: A Site of Resistance"

People crave narration.... That's the way they learn things. That's the way they organize their human knowledge. - Toni Morrison


Overview: On this WebQuest, you will learn a bit about the life and work of Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison, with a particular focus on her novel, Beloved. You'll also learn the historical context of the real-life story behind the novel.

Step 1: Learn a bit about Morrison's life and work.   

Begin by reading this overview of Morrison's life and work. You might also find it interesting to read her Nobel Prize speech.