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In 1852, the United States of America was anything but united. The divisive issue of slavery was roiling the nation, which argued ad nauseam about the extension of slavery in new states as the nation pushed westward. Less than a decade later, Americans would fight each other in a Civil War that would claim over half a million lives before it was all said and done.
That same year, Harriet Beecher Stowe, an ardent abolitionist in the Northeast, published her famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which became an instant hit in the United States and spawned Southern responses in literature that depicted slavery as a benign institution. Given the debate that Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped spawn, historians have viewed Stowe’s classic as a harbinger of the Civil War itself. A famous anecdote holds that Abraham Lincoln himself, upon meeting Stowe, described her as "the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
While that quote is likely apocryphal, the historical importance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin remains well understood today, but the book is also remembered today for certain depictions and stereotypes of black people. These stereotypes include the affable “mammy,” the "pickaninny" stereotype of black children; and, of course, an “Uncle Tom”, which has ironically become a pejorative for a person who suffers dutifully for his boss.
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Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American author and abolitionist. Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, she was raised in a deeply religious family and educated in a seminary school run by her elder sister. In her adult life, Stowe married biblical scholar and abolitionist Calvin Ellis Stowe, who would later go on to work as Harriet s literary agent, and the two participated in the Underground Railroad by providing temporary refuge for escaped slaves travelling to the American North. Shortly before the outbreak of the American Civil War, Stowe published her most famous work, Uncle Tom s Cabin, a stark and sympathetic depiction of the desperate lives of African American slaves. The book went on to see unprecedented sales, and informed American and European attitudes towards abolition. In the years leading up to her death, suffering from dementia or Alzheimer s disease, Stowe is said to have begun re-writing Uncle Tom s Cabin, almost word-for-word, believing that she was writing the original manuscript once again. Stowe died in July 1, 1896 at the age of eighty-five.About the Author:
Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom. It energized anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. She wrote more than 20 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential both for her writings and her public stands on social issues of the day. -wikipedia
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