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Girl Genius Suggests -- Uncle Tom's Cabin

Updated on March 14, 2010

The book that changed America

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a book that was very important to her, and it became very important to the whole country.

Two years earlierĀ a law was passed here in the US that made it illegal in the North to help an escaped slave find freedom. Stowe grew up in Connecticut (far away from the salve-owning South), and her parents were both abolitionists (anti-slavery).

The epoch of slavery is not the highpoint of American history. A country founded on the idea of "freedom" then permits human beings to be bought and sold??? The idea made a lot of people uncomfortable at the time, and it is still a touchy subject today.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" tells the story of slavery from the inside out. It does not preach, it does not lecture, it does not judge. Instead, the reader learns what slavery really looks like and who are the people who keep it in place (owners, overseers).

Stowe lived for a few years in my hometown (Cincinnati, Ohio) which is across the river from Kentucky, which was considered a "border" state -- slavery was tolerated, but not universally accepted. Many slaves fled from Kentucky or through it, on their way to "total freedom" in Canada.

In the North, slaves were not "needed" as they were in the South, where the hard work of picking cotton by hand required cheap labor. The brilliace of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is that is shows how the system of slavery destroyed families -- children were often torn from their mothers arms and sold, husband could be sold and separated from their wives.

By bringing this aspect of slavery to light, Stowe helped motivate a lot of people who had been previously indifferent. Her book is widely credited with ending slavery in this country -- that is no small accomplishment!

Rather than give a summary of the book, I will leave that for you to discover. Some critics will claim that the book is a pile of stereotypes, but I disagree. Even 150 years later, the stories still vibrate with the pulse of real life.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

One amazing American woman
One amazing American woman

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