Harriet Beecher Stowe: Author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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Harriet Beecher-Stowe, American abolitionist a...

Harriet Beecher-Stowe, American abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even before the United States became a country, the South and North fought over slavery. Though several compromises created between 1776-1850 prevented war from erupting between the two opposing sides, slavery remained a hot topic in politics. While modern day Americans picture the Northern states has being advocates for Black Americans, majority of Northerners believed that Black Americans were inferior beings that should be shipped back to Africa because they were taking White Americans’ jobs. The slaves needed a voice, someone who could convince thousands that slaves and Black Americans were humans capable of having feelings. In 1852, the slaves received their voice; her name was Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1881, in Litchfield, Connecticut. She was one of thirteen children born to  Congregationalists minister and his wife; seven of her brothers grew up to be ministers while the sisters became active in women’s rights. Stowe met her husband, teacher Calvin Ellis Stowe, in the Semi-Colon  literature club. She became involved in the anti-slavery movement from participated in the Underground Railroad. From the runaway slaves, newspaper articles, and first-hand accounts of slavery auctions, Stowe learned how horrible slavery was.Years later, Stowe stated the death of her 18 month year-old son helped her understand the pain of enslaved mothers felt when their children were taken from them to be sold. In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive State Law, which made it a crime for anyone in the North to help runaway slaves escape from the South. Stowe knew she had to do something so she wrote to her publisher about writing a few articles about slavery. She wrote “I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and  humanity is bound to speak… I hope every woman who can write will not be silent.” Her articles appeared in the National Era and became a novel, now titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the next year. Uncle Tom’s Cabin became the second best book sold in the 19th century, second only to the Bible.

 

The novel described the horrors of slavery, such as the pain a mother felt when her child was sold to a different family. Uncle Tom’s Cabin showed that slaves had emotions, faith, and could be educated; that they were indeed humans. The novel also featured strong female characters since Stowe believed it was up to the American women to end slavery in the United States.  While the book inspired Northerners to participate in the anti-slavery movement, the Southerners sent Stowe death threats; one package included a severed ear of a slave. Stowe never backed down and spent the rest of her life writing articles, novels, and textbooks about social injustice in the country. The book also became popular abroad; American minister to Britain during the war Charles Francis Adams (grandson of President John Adams) said “a more immediate, considerable, and dramatic world-influence than any other book ever printed.”

 

On November 25, 1862, Stowe met President Abraham Lincoln in Washington D.C.. The story says that when she met the President, Lincoln told her “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Three years later, the Civil War ended and the 13th Amendment passed, outlawing slavery in the United States. After accomplishing her goal of ending slavery, Stowe spent her winters teaching emancipated slaves in Mandarin, Florida. She  died on July 1, 1896 in Hartford, Connecticut.

 

Stowe was taught by her parents that both men and women were expected to contribute to society. Stowe used writing not only to support her family, but to make a difference in the world. Gone were the days of burning abolitionists’ printing shops to the ground since many Americans now knew about the horrors of slavery. During the Civil War, thousands of men and women joined the cause knowing that slavery needed to end. And even after slavery ended, Stowe focus on writing about equality for blacks and women in the United States. Stowe showed that anyone, man, woman, or child, could make a difference. Because of her, the stories of millions of slaves were finally written down and the horrors of slavery would never be forgotten.

 

Sources:

 

Harriet Beecher Stowe. biography

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Trans-Atlantic Historical Solidarity

 

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