Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom's Cabin / Underground Railroad
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist in the 19th century and is most famous for authoring Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. More than just a book, it brought the issue of slavery to a whole new level at a time when it was becoming a hot issue between the north and the south.
It was seen by millions as both a novel and a play and brought widespread recognition to the plight of African-American slaves in a way that nothing else had to that point. It added fuel to the fire for the northerners against slavery while angering southerners who supported slavery as an institution that was woven into the fabric of their lives.
Stowe was the seventh of thirteen children born into a deeply religious family. At the age of 21, she traveled to Ohio with her father and there met Calvin Ellis Stowe, who was strongly anti-slavery. They were part of the Underground Railroad and harbored many fugitive slaves.
In 1850 the Fugitive Slave law was enacted by Congress which prohibited providing assistance to runaway slaves. This and her early experiences with harboring slaves inspired her to action and she was committed to do something about it. In 1850 she wrote to an editor, "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 first installments of a story which would later become the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin were published in National Era in monthly releases. In 1852 the releases were compiled into Uncle Tom’s Cabin and within a year, an amazing 300,000 copies had been sold.
It told the story of the institution of slavery and created support in the north and strong opposition against the book in the south. For the first time the masses had been exposed to the realities of slavery and this would change everything.
Ten years later in 1862, Stowe met President Abraham Lincoln in the White House and he is rumored to have said, "so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
Harriet Beecher Stowe will forever be remembered for creating a work that shed light upon slavery in such a way that debate became commonplace. At the very least, it helped accelerate the country in the direction of war.
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