Uncle Tom’s Cabin Published

Today in History, March 20: 1852 – “So…you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” President Abraham Lincoln greets Harriett Beecher Stowe at the Presidential Mansion in 1862, ten years after her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was first published. I am amazed at the foresight and courage displayed by this woman, a school teacher turned author. By her own admission, in the epilogue of the book, for the first part of her life, she knew of slavery, disapproved of it, but being a Northerner, it was distant and she felt that the problem would be resolved eventually on it’s own. How many of today’s injustices do we see the same way? Between meeting some runaway slaves, becoming familiar with the Underground Railroad, and stories from her family and friends, and finally the Compromise of 1850 (in which the government promised to return runaway slaves in exchange for new limitations on slavery expansion), she became an avid abolitionist. She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to illustrate the aspects of slavery that most did not understand at that time. As slaves, a mother’s children were often sold off, never to be seen again. Women were sold into prostitution, to be used until their value had diminished. If a good and kindly “master” came on hard times, he might sell a good man “down the river” to cruel and harsh masters, as “Uncle Tom” was. With her novel, Mrs. Stowe humanized the slavery issue, brought it home to people and chastised them for not living up to their Christian values. The novel would become the best selling novel of the 19th century and would inspire abolitionist views amongst Americans. It was certainly far from the only cause of the Civil War…but the novel played it’s part in American History. One has to wonder if this “little woman” had any idea of the importance her words would have. If you haven’t read (or listened to) this novel, you should.

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