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Beloved Historical Context

This Study Guide consists of approximately 100 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Beloved.
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Historical Context

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850

One of the central events of the novel—Sethe's attack on her children—is described as "her rough response to the Fugitive Bill." Prior to 1850, U.S. law permitted slave owners to attempt to recover escaped slaves, but state authorities were under no obligation to assist them. Many Northerners saw aiding and protecting fugitive slaves as one way to combat the evil of slavery. Escaped slaves who settled in free states were therefore relatively safe from capture, since their abolitionist communities rarely cooperated with slave owners. This sense of safety was jeopardized by the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

As America expanded her borders, slavery was a continuing source of controversy. The addition of territory acquired in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 sparked heated debates over the status of slavery in these new lands. When Pennsylvania Representative David Wilmot proposed that "neither slavery nor...

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This section contains 1,019 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Beloved Study Guide
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Beloved from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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