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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   



7. Slavery and
Freedom


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Activities: Author Activities


Harriet Beecher Stowe - Selected Archive Items

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[1328] A. S. Seer, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1879),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-13513].
Situated squarely within the sentimental tradition, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin unabashedly appeals to readers' emotions with scenes of pathos and tragedy. Though the novel seems melodramatic and even derogatory to modern readers, Stowe provided the sentimental appeal necessary to bring the abolitionist cause to the forefront of American consciousness in the mid-nineteenth century.

[2644] Edward Hicks, Peaceable Kingdom (c. 1834),
courtesy of National Gallery of Art, 1980.62.15.
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch. Hicks's Quaker biblical allegory alludes to William Penn's treaty with the Lenni Lenape Indians and influenced African American artist Robert Duncanson's painting of Little Eva and Uncle Tom, characters from Uncle Tom's Cabin. In these works, sentimentality obscured the tension between peace ideals and anti-slavery ideals.

[3457] Anonymous, Harriet Beecher Stowe (c. 1880),
courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration [208-N-25004].
Although Uncle Tom's Cabin dates from 1851, Stowe remained active for decades, composing both early New England regionalist literature and works dealing with how middle-class women's household work was changing in an industrializing society.

[5460] Courier Litho. Co., Uncle Tom's Cabin--On the Levee (1899),
courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Theatrical Poster Collection.
This poster for a theater production shows happy slaves dancing. Post--Civil War "Uncle Tom Shows" often were performed by whites in blackface. By presenting blacks as subservient in every way, such shows gave the term "Uncle Tom" its derogatory meaning.

[7221] Nina Baym, Interview: "The Publication Success of Uncle Tom's Cabin" (2001),
courtesy of Annenberg Media.
Baym, professor of English at the University of Illinois, is the general editor of The Norton Anthology of American Literature and author of American Women of Letters and the Nineteenth-Century Sciences: Styles of Affiliation.



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