[By Kenton Rambsy]

On yesterday, I provided a post on what Wikipedia has taught me about Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Wikipedia, since its launch, has been the source of much controversy regarding the accuracy of its information with some parties supporting the site and others parties criticizing it greatly.
Today, I continue my exploration of “What I learned from Wikipedia” by exploring Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved. Wikipedia serves an important function as it shapes reading audiences impressions of black novelists in our “100 Novels Collection” and larger concepts of African American literature in general.

What I learned about Beloved from Wikipedia
  • I learned that the novel was inspired by the story of the African-American slave, Margaret Garner, who escaped slavery in 1856 in Kentucky by fleeing to Ohio, a free state. After a posse arrived to retrieve her and her children, Garner killed her two-year-old daughter rather than allow her to be recaptured.
  • I learned the novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in1988.
  • I learned that in 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.
  • I learned the plot summary of the novel.
  • I learned Alfred Knopf originally published the novel.
  • I learned the original publication date was January 1987.
  • I learned the novel has approximately 324 pages.
  • I learned information regarding major motifs of the novel: Mother-daughter relationships and Psychological impact of slavery
  • I learned that in 1998, the novel was made into a film directed by Jonathan Demme and produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey.
  • I learned that on October 12, 1988 Beloved received the Frederic G. Melcher Book Award, which is named for an editor of Publishers Weekly.
  • I learned that when accepting the Frederic G. Melcher Book Award, Morrison stated “there is no suitable memorial or plaque or wreath or wall or park or skyscraper lobby” honoring the memory of the human beings forced into slavery and brought to the United States. “There’s no small bench by the road,” she continued. “And because such a place doesn’t exist (that I know of), the book had to.”
  • I learned that inspired by her remarks, the Toni Morrison Society has now begun to install benches at significant sites in the history of slavery in America with the first “bench by the road” being dedicated on July 26 on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for approximately 40 percent of the enslaved Africans brought to the United States.
  • I learned that in 2011, the book was placed on Time Magazine’s top 100 fiction books written in English since 1923. 

[Related: 30 Days of 100 Novels]