The theme of this year’s Teaching American History Saturday webinars is American Minds. Prominent scholars will discuss individuals who made significant social, cultural, or political contributions to the American identity. On 7 December 2019, join panelists Chris Burkett (Ashland University), Bill Allen (Michigan State University), and David Krugler (University of Wisconsin) to explore the life, ideas, letters, and impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Below, you’ll find selected passages from each of the readings to be discussed — we hope these will inspire you to read more in each text in order to better understand Stowe’s work.
Review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Rambler, November 1852
(Note that already in 1852 the reviewer says at least nine editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin had already been published!)
The story comes before us as an attack upon slavery, on account of the horrors inherent in and necessary to the system; but perhaps the unfitness of a work of fiction as an instrument of religious or political propagandism was never more strikingly exemplified. … As far as we can judge, the present abolition of slavery in the southern states of America would be a greater evil than its continuance; and our objection to books like the one under consideration, as well as to the use that is being made of it, and the whole conduct of the abolitionist party in general, is this, that they are injuring the cause they wish to serve, and that by their means the sympathies of the good are misdirected, and their attention diverted from the true bearings of the case, and the only true source of remedy.
Letter to Daniel Goodloe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 9 February 1853
As to all this little flutter of crimination and recrimination between England and America, about slavery and the state of the poor in England, I fancy it will do good on both sides. It will not hurt our respectable sister, Mrs. Bull, to know that her housekeeping is open to investigation as well as ours, and the only way that truth ever comes out is by this kind of sifting. The discussion will undoubtedly strength the hands of those who are seeking to elevate the lower classes of England, and so good will be done all around.
Letter to Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, 8 March 1853
I desire to express, dear Madam, my deep sense of the value of the services which you have already rendered my afflicted and persecuted people, by the publication of your inimitable book on the subject of slavery. That contribution to our bleeding cause, alone, involves us in a debt of gratitude which cannot be measured; and your resolution to make other exertions on our behalf excites in me emotions and sentiments, which I scarcely need try to give forth in words. Suffice it to say, that I believe you to have the blessings of your enslaved countrymen and countrywomen; and the still higher reward which comes to the soul in the smiles of our merciful Heavenly father, whose ear is ever open to the cries of the oppressed.