Uncle Tom’s Cabin

 

  

 

This object is the Boston Edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe published in 1853. Being the best selling novel (and best selling book, behind the Bible) of the 19th Century, it was very influential and meaningful to Americans during this time period. In it’s storytelling, it brought to the attention of Americans all the horror and cruelty of slavery. It humanized African American slaves and proved to change people’s minds about the morality of slavery. The book helped to bring slavery to forefront as a political issue. It was very meaningful to Northerners and Southerners in different ways. It energized the North to start becoming more abolitionist and anti-slavery, and made the South uncomfortable and forced them to become more defensive of their attitudes supporting slavery. It is often credited with being a factor in the rising tension between the North and South, tensions that eventually escalated to the eruption of the Civil War.  It is claimed that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he said to her, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.”

 

The novel has been adapted into a number of film and play versions. This allowed it to reach an even wider audience, because maybe people viewed stage versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin rather than reading it. This provided a medium for the illeterate to appreciate Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well, however, some of the stage adaptations were not faithful to the message in Stowe’s book. There were many instances in which versions of the show were essentially minstrel shows, white actors dressed up as African-American characters for comic effect in order to perpetuate black stereotypes. This went against the serious nature of the novel and it’s anti-slavery message. There were even stage versions of the book that expressed a blatant pro-slavery message. However, the novel’s true message has been restored to the general public, in that it continues to be popular to this day, while blackface minstrel shows are not.

 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811-July 1, 1896) and published by John P. Jewett and Company on March 20, 1853, with illustrations by Hammatt Billings. 

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