Written and published by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the most popular 19th century novel and after the Bible, the second best-selling book of that century. The book’s impact on the American public on the issue of slavery was so powerful. When President Abraham Lincoln met Harriet at the start of the American Civil War he stated “so this is the little lady who made this big war.”
Stowe used Uncle Tom’s Cabin to publicize the horrors of slavery. As a result, slavery increased the tensions between Southern slaveholders and non-slave holding Northerners and as Lincoln’s comments suggested, brought the nation to civil war.
Despite Stowe’s desire to portray slavery as a powerful injustice in the nation, she also did much to expand anti-black sentiment through her presentation of stereotypical black characters in the novel. Some of these stereotypes include the dark-skinned mammy, “pickaninny” black children, and Uncle Tom, the obedient and long-suffering servant to his white master. These stereotypes exist within Uncle Tom’s Cabin and existed before the book was published; most observers believe it’s good in advancing the abolitionist movement, leading to the downfall of the institution of slavery, outweighed the impact of the stereotypes.
Source: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
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