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Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Primary Source Set

Uncle Tom’s Cabin caused an uproar when it was published in 1852 and it has sparked controversy ever since. Abraham Lincoln is said to have called the author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, “the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.” The novel was hugely popular and everyone had an opinion about its depiction of slavery. Many Northern readers saw the novel as revealing the horrors of the “peculiar institution,” and abolitionists characterized it as a gift from God. In the South, Uncle Tom’s Cabin generated outrage; slave owners criticized it as hyperbolic and untruthful. Stowe, daughter of the famous Congregational minister Lyman Beecher, achieved her goal, to write a work of fiction protesting slavery. However, Uncle Tom's Cabin also addresses women’s roles and Christian themes. Stowe wrote many other works during her lifetime, but she is best remembered for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The story’s popularity continued for decades, generating stage shows and “Tom shows” that combined basic elements of Stowe’s novel with the blackface minstrel tradition.

Additional resources for research

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, HathiTrust, Digital Public Library of America.

  2. Slave narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin, PBS.

  3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.

  4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture, the University of Virginia.

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