Baby Suggs Holy is the mother-in-law of Sethe Suggs, the protagonist of Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987). The novel begins with Sethe's escape to Baby Suggs, who lives in Ohio. Halle, Sethe's husband and Baby Suggs's son, has succeeded in buying his mother's freedom by working extra on Sundays. Baby Suggs becomes a holy figure and preaches self-love to her people in an open area near her home. Sethe arrives mutilated, bruised, and worn out, and Baby Suggs tenderly ministers to her daughter-in-law and her baby, healing Sethe's body.
After Sethe's arrival, Stamp Paid (the ferryman who brings the former slaves to Ohio) brings them huge buckets of blackberries, and the women decide to have a feast and share the pies with the other colored people in the area. The people, however, resent their generosity and feel that Baby Suggs is showing off; therefore, they fail to warn them of the arrival of schoolteacher, Sethe's owner, who plans to return Sethe and her children to slavery. When Sethe sees school-teacher, she kills Beloved rather than see her returned to slavery. This incident causes the complete disillusionment of Baby Suggs, and she no longer preaches. She takes to the “keeping room” where she contemplates colors until the end of her life.
Baby Suggs's experiences as a female slave included the loss of most of her children and the additional responsibility of servicing her masters sexually. In rendering the story of the life and death of Baby Suggs, Morrison reminds the reader that Baby Suggs's life has been destroyed by slavery even though she attained physical freedom.
Brian Finney, “Temporal Defamiliarization in Toni Morrison's Beloved,” Obsidian II 18 (Spring 1990): 59–77.Wilfred D. Samuels and Clenora Hudson-Weems, Toni Morrison, 1990.Trudier Harris, Fiction and Folklore: The Novels of Toni Morrison, 1991.Kristin Boudreau, “Pain and the Unmaking of Self in Toni Morrison's Beloved,” Contemporary Literature 36.3 (Fall 1995): 447–465.Danielle Taylor-Guthrie, “Who Are the Beloved? Old and New Testaments, Old and New Communities of Faith,” Religion and Literature 27.1 (Spring 1995): 119–129.