Sethe A former slave whose love for her children and hatred of slavery causes her to commit an unthinkable act in order to keep her children free from a life of bondage.
Beloved Sethe's third child and oldest daughter who was killed at the age of two. Her restless spirit haunts the family first as a ghost and then as a flesh-and-blood woman.
Denver Sethe's fourth and youngest child. Traumatized as a young girl by what she discovers about her mother, she grows up lonely and isolated, focusing her love and devotion on Beloved's spirit.
Paul D Garner A former slave from Sweet Home who survived the horrors of slavery and has evolved into a resourceful, contemplative man. He challenges Sethe to try to make a future with him.
Halle Suggs Sethe's husband and the youngest of Baby Suggs's eight children. For years, Halle hires himself out to buy his mother's freedom. Although he plans to escape to freedom, the escape plot is discovered and halted by the Sweet Home overseer (schoolteacher). Halle is never heard from again.
Baby Suggs (Jenny Whitlow) Sethe's mother-in-law. Baby becomes a preacher after Halle buys her freedom, and she provides a stabilizing force for Sethe and Denver.
Buglar and Howard Sethe and Halle's sons who are frightened by their mother and by Beloved's ghost. They leave home shortly after Baby Suggs's death and never return.
Stamp Paid (Joshua) The former slave who ferries Sethe and Denver across the Ohio River to freedom and later rescues Denver from being killed.
Vashti Stamp Paid's wife who, while a slave, was forced to become her master's mistress.
Amy Denver A young white girl and indentured slave who cares for Sethe when Sethe runs from Sweet Home. She helps deliver Sethe's fourth child, and Sethe names the baby Denver in her honor.
Mr. Garner The owner of Sweet Home who treats his slaves humanely.
Mrs. Lillian Garner Mr. Garner's wife who treats both Baby Suggs and Sethe kindly and gives Sethe a pair of crystal earrings as a wedding gift. After Mr. Garner dies, she becomes ill and turns Sweet Home over to her cruel brother-in-law, the schoolteacher.
schoolteacher The widower of Mr. Garner's sister who takes control of Sweet Home after Mr. Garner's death. He is fascinated with studying the characteristics and behaviors of the Sweet Home slaves, viewing them as animals that can earn him profit.
Sixo A Sweet Home slave who maintains a relationship with the Thirty-Mile Woman. He is burned alive when captured trying to escape the plantation.
The Thirty-Mile Woman (Patsy) Sixo's lover who joins the group running from Sweet Home and escapes capture when the others are caught.
Paul A Garner A Sweet Home slave who is close to Halle and Paul D and plots with them to escape.
Ma'am Sethe's unnamed mother who was taken from Africa. The hard labor she is subjected to prevents her from spending time with Sethe, and she is killed when Sethe is just a girl.
Nan The one-armed plantation wet-nurse who crossed the ocean in the same ship that carried Sethe's mother. Nan is a sort of surrogate mother to Sethe, breastfeeding her after the "whitebabies" are fed.
Paul F Garner One of Sweet Home's three Pauls who is sold to an unspecified owner shortly after Mr. Garner's death so Mrs. Garner has money to run the plantation.
Whitlow Baby Suggs's former owner in Carolina who named her Jenny Whitlow on the bill of sale.
Hi Man The black convict in the Georgia prison with Paul D who signals that other inmates can rise from their kneeling position, shuffle off on their common chain, and begin the day's work.
Mr. and Mrs. Buddy Amy Denver's master and mistress. Mr. Buddy, as vicious as a slave overseer, is said to "whip you for looking at him straight."
Ella One of Baby Suggs's neighbors in Cincinnati who escorts Sethe and Denver from the riverbank to Baby Suggs's house when they first arrive. Years later, she organizes the local women to exorcise Beloved from the house.
Janey Wagon A house servant in the Bodwin home.
Lady Jones A woman of mixed heritage and neighbor of Baby Suggs who offers lessons to the neighborhood children. She later helps Denver climb out of poverty.
Reverend Pike A minister of the Church of the Redeemer.
Sawyer A Cincinnati restaurant owner who offers work to Sethe.
Edward Bodwin A generous Quaker supporter of the Underground Railroad who helps Baby Suggs get settled in Cincinnati and later gives Denver a job.
Miss Bodwin Edwin Bodwin's unmarried sister who also supports abolition.
Nelson Lord Denver's schoolmate who ends Denver's education by asking her about Sethe's past.