Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Toms Cabin

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Harriet Beecher Stowe’s
Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its Impact on the 18th Century’s
Anti-Slavery Years

Celestine Best

During the 1800’s, anti-slavery writings and articles were not very popular in the Deep South. It was also a time when women needed to stay in their domestic roles as wives and mothers, and not so much a public figure, especially if you wanted to be a writer of anti-slavery issues. Because women were expected to stay in their place in the domesticated capacity, it was difficult for any woman to get their writings or their books published. Women would often use their initials or a pen name so that she would not be identified as a women author. One woman by the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe did just that. She wrote many articles and novels in her lifetime, but she is best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. According to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, it was written that “this book was deeply controversial because it discussed the issues of slavery”.

Harriet Beecher Stowe came from humble beginnings. She was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, CT to the Rev. Lyman Beecher and Roxanna Foote. She was the sixth child out of eleven children. Harriet’s mother died when she was only five years old. Stowe started writing at an early age. She was seven years old when she won her first essay contest at school. Later on, Stowe’s father decided to remarry and from that union she inherited three more siblings, two boys, and one girl. Stowe would often love to debate or have friendly persuasive arguments on different subjects with her family at the dinner table. She inherited and was taught debating skills from her father who was also a great debater, having taught it at school. Stowe’s formal education started at Sarah Pierce’s Academy, and then in 1824 she enrolled in the Hartford Female Seminary. She enrolled as a student but went on to teach there. It was at this seminary that Stowe mastered her writing talents. She developed a passion for writing.

In 1851, Stowe along with publisher Gamaliel Bailey decided to put together a story called Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which would be written in installments over time. Stowe ended up with a novel. More interesting than that was the fact that it was an anti-slavery novel. This novel brought Stowe the success she was looking for as well as the financial security she needed. She also wrote a novel called Dred: A Tale from the Swamp, which was also an anti-slavery novel. However, Uncle Tom’s Cabin put her on the map to stardom in American history.

By the middle 1800’s, slavery and owning slaves was a way of life for the more prominent planters in the south. The more slaves you owned, the wealthier you were considered to be. However, the treatment of slaves was very harsh. They were malnourished, sold away from their families, and often beaten very badly if they tried to escape or run away. No doubt, Stowe saw all of this injustice and cruelty going on around her during her early years through adulthood, which led her to write the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Being very familiar with the slavery issues at hand, she wanted to write her strong views and her opinions about slavery and she could do this by publishing this novel.

The impact Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on 18th century America and slavery was both positive and negative, especially slave owners. They were both fearful and upset that such literature of that sort had been written. They were afraid that a novel of that magnitude on anti-slavery would certainly cause a revolt like that of Nat Turner where almost sixty white people were killed. On the other hand, this novel had the ability to make people stand up and pay attention to slavery and the effects it was having on families. It also helped the people who read this novel to get an idea or understanding of what slaves were going through and the things they had to endure. The characters in this novel debated the causes of slavery, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the...
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