Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is a story of slavery in America in the 1800s.

The book was published in March of 1852, it sold 10,000 copies the first week. Within a year, 300,000 copies had been sold.  It was translated into 20 languages in the next five years, and sold more than a million copies worldwide.

It was the first American novel to become an international best-seller, and was the best-selling book of the nineteenth century, with the exception of the Bible.

The story opens with Kentucky farmer Arther Shelby in the parlor of his home, discussing the sale of two of his slaves.  He and slave trader Mr. Haley have agreed on Tom, but Haley wants the little boy, Harry, as well.

Mr. Shelby, heavily in debt and in danger of losing the farm, promises him an answer by that evening.  Mr. and Mrs. Shelby have always treated their slaves with kindness and affection, and it pains Mr. Shelby to sell any of them.

Tom is an honest and trustworthy man. He and his family have been with the Shelbys for years.  Mr. Shelby never thought he would ever be considering selling Tom, but he felt he had no choice.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Haley was insisting on little Harry as well. Mrs. Shelby was sure to give him a whole lot of trouble over that.


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Harry's mother is Emily Shelby's personal maid. Eliza had been raised from girlhood by her mistress, and is indulged and adored by Mrs. Shelby, who has promised her that little Harry would never be sold.

Eliza overhears Mr. and Mrs. Shelby arguing about the sale of Tom and Harry.  She warns Tom and his wife, then takes Harry and runs North, hoping to join up with her husband, George, and get to Canada, where they can live free.

Haley hires a slave hunter to find Eliza and Harry and bring them back to Kentucky.

Uncle Tom, sadly but obediently, says goodbye to his wife and children, as well as his friend, "Mas'r George", the Shelbys' young son.

Haley puts Tom in chains (totally unnecessary - he won't run) and puts him on a boat to be taken to a slave market. On the boat he meets a little white girl named Eva who makes friends with him right away.  When Tom saves Eva from drowning, her father, Augustine St. Clare, buys him for her.

Uncle Tom's Cabin tells the story of George, Eliza, and Harry's dangerous flight to Canada.  We learn of Tom's life with little Eva until she-and then her father-die, and the cruelty Tom endures afterward.

And of young George Shelby's long search for Tom.

Haley puts Tom in chains (totally unnecessary - he won't run) and puts him on a boat to be taken to a slave market. On the boat he meets a little white girl named Eva who makes friends with him right away.  When Tom saves Eva from drowning, her father, Augustine St. Clare, buys him for her.

Uncle Tom's Cabin tells the story of George, Eliza, and Harry's dangerous flight to Canada.  We learn of Tom's life with little Eva until she-and then her father-die, and the cruelty Tom endures afterward.

And of young George Shelby's long search for Tom.



As well received as this book was, it certainly was not without its critics.  Many Southerners were outraged, calling it "utterly false", "slanderous", and "criminal".  A bookseller in Mobile, Alabama, was driven from town for selling the book.

Stowe got threatening letters. Someone went so far as to send her a package containing a slave's severed ear.

The book was considered abolitionist propaganda. During the Civil War it was banned in the southern states because of its anti-slavery content.

It was banned in Russia for "undermining religious beliefs" and for the idea of equality.

Southern states, some schools in Illinois, and the NAACP have challenged the book for its use of the N-word.




It is my opinion that using the N-word in this context is not a problem.  This was written in the 1800s. Slavery existed, and the N-word was used. I don't know how one could write a believable story about slavery without using it.  Uncle Tom's Cabin is a realistic story of life during those times.

The word itself surely cannot be as offensive as the treatment of the slaves.  That's about as offensive as it gets.

This is a wonderful book. It gives us a close look at life in the days of slavery from differing points of view.  I believe it should be read as a reminder of what can happen when people harden their hearts against their fellow human beings.

Highly recommended.


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