Tuesday, March 20

Cabin fever

Poor Uncle Tom has gotten a bad rap over the years.

Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published on March 20, 1852, the two-volume novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War."

An abolitionist, Stowe featured the character of Uncle Tom around whom the other characters revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as slavery.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States; one million copies were sold in Great Britain.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is credited with fueling the abolitionist cause in the 1850s, and it is said that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe on Nov. 25, 1862, he declared, "So this is the little lady who started this great war." (The quote is did not appear in print until 1896.)

It is my belief that the early plays and moving pictures it inspired popularized a number of stereotypes about black people (usually portrayed by white actors in blackface) and overshadowed the historical impact of the book.

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