Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an infamous abolitionist novel, was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published on March 20, 1852. Stowe had an admirable stance on the abolition of slavery; she used her privilege as a White writer to detail the life of a slave to expose the evil acts of the Southerners and the complacency of the Northerners. The book follows the life of an enslaved man named Uncle Tom who was sold to several other slave owners, who each treated him differently. The book Uncle Tom’s Cabin showed the humanity of enslaved people and how atrocious and inhumane slavery was to persuade Americans to fight for its abolition.
Everything started during the nineteenth century in Kentucky on a plantation owned by Arthur and Emily Shelby. The Shelby’s accumulated crippling debt and were forced to sell their slaves. Eliza, Mrs.Shelby’s personal maid, overheard that her son Harry and Uncle Tom were the two slaves sold. Uncle Tom was an obedient servant, whom Mr. Shelby admired a lot. Eliza and her son ran to Uncle Tom’s cabin and warned him and attempted to persuade Uncle Tom to escape the plantation with them. However, Uncle Tom decided to remain faithful to the Shelby’s and stayed back, forcing Eliza and Harry to escape alone as they were being hunted by Haley. The two quickly crossed the Ohio River with her son over to the North Side where she received aid from the Senator and Ms. Bird; they eventually reunited with George, Eliza’s husband who also escaped. The reunited family continued their journey and received help from the Quakers, a religious group that provided aid to many slaves as they escaped to Canada.
Meanwhile, at Mr. Shelby’s plantation, Haley ceased his search for Eliza and Harry. Instead, he took Uncle Tom away from his wife and children, to sell him on the slave market. While on a boat en route to the slave market, Uncle Tom rescued a girl named Evangeline after she had fallen off the boat. To show Uncle Tom his gratitude, Evangeline’s father Augustine St.Clare purchased him and brought Uncle Tom to the St.Clare estate. At the St.Clare estate, Uncle Tom was treated well. He was especially close to Evangeline as the two bonded over their Christian beliefs. Ophelia, Evangeline’s cousin, was fully aware of the horrors of slavery but she still treated enslaved people with harsh prejudice, especially Topsy. Augustine was a Christian who was struggling with his faith.
However, after Eva’s death, Ophelia became more compassionate towards Topsy and other slaves, and Augustine became an abolitionist and sought freedom for the slaves. Augustine was later murdered and was unable to sign the papers that would have freed Uncle Tom. Marie, the wife of St.Clare, inherited Augustine’s entire state, including his slaves. She separated the slaves and sold them off. Uncle Tom, Emmeline who was a fifteen years old girl, and two other slaves were sold to a wicked plantation owner, Simon Legree. Emmeline was to replace Legree sex slave, Cassy back at his plantation. For the first time, Uncle Tom saw how the cotton plantation was filled with hatred and evil, from the plantation owners and enslaved people alike. Legree constantly pressured Uncle Tom into doing evil deeds but he did not oblige and would be punished for upholding his righteous beliefs.
Meanwhile, George, Eliza, and Harry successfully escaped to Canada and were freed. Back at Legree’s plantation, Cassy and Emmeline planned to escape from slavery. Uncle Tom was brought in by Legree to confess what he knows about their escape, being the kind person that Uncle Tom is, he would rather receive death than to give out and knowledge he has about the escape. George Shelby, the son of Mr. Shelby, came to the plantation and saw Uncle Tom on the verge of death. The death of Uncle Tom inspired George Shelby to free all of his slaves in his plantation in Kentucky and pay them for their work. George wanted Uncle Tom’s cabin to serve as a memorial for Uncle Tom and remembrance of freedom to the slaves.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an amazing book that is definitely admired by many. It was filled with sentimental parts that made the readers have an emotional feeling and were able to demonstrate the types of people slaves encountered. This book was filled with unfamiliar words, but as readers keep reading the diction became more understandable after using context clues. Slaves experience many hardships, from being torn apart from their families to tolerating wicked owners. Many families were forced to split, the death of the characters was devastating, and the injustice that slaves went through were unforgiving. This time in history should never be forgotten; it should always be known.
As early as the fifteenth century, Europeans came to Africa and enslaved many. Soon after, Europeans discovered America and took control of the indigenous people. In both Africa and America, Europeans colonized the land while raped and eradicated the natives. In America, the southern states were based on agriculture and because of this, the south was dependent on slaves for cheap and free labor. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, readers can see how many Southerners sold slaves because they were considered to be property and only a means of producing more to benefit the colonizers.
Depending on where the states were and how much they relied on cheap and free labor, states viewed slavery differently. Many of the citizens livng in the northern states did not agree with the system of slavery but they remained complacent and silent about abolition. Stated in the book, “A day of grace is yet held out to us. Both North and South have been guilty before God (Stowe 45).” Throughout Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Christianity was always being brought up. Uncle Tom continuously thought about his moral and faith in God when he goes through horrible situations. As George says to the rest of his slaves he set free, “Think of your freedom, every time you see Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was. (Stowe 44).” The characters that turn towards religion either take it as their moral responsibility or as something to justify their actions. Uncle Tom’s Cabin shows both sides of how Christianity was used to justify a person’s devious actions or a person’s good morals. This may be one of the reasons many readers believe that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a great piece of writing because the story integrates multiple points of views. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is definitely a great piece of work for anybody who would want to walk in the shoes of an enslaved person during the nineteenth century.
As slavery existed in America during the mid-19th century. The continuous acts of mistreatment happened amongst the slaves by white owners. There were slaves like Eliza and George who runs away from slavery to seek freed, while there are other slaves similar to Uncle Tom who obey their slave owners. Eliza, Harry, and George went up North and received aid by many abolitionists. As for Uncle Tom, he continuously goes deeper into the South where there are slave owners who act immorally towards their slaves. Through Christian beliefs and faith, Uncle Tom knew his morals and stood by them to get through any difficult situation. Characters often would make remarks about Uncle Tom’s kind demeanor saying he is a “man who, in cold nights, would give up his tattered blanket to add to the comfort of some woman who shivered with sickness, and who filled the baskets of the weaker ones in the field, at the terrible risk of coming short in his own measure (Stowe 38).”
Uncle Tom stuck to his moral principles and demonstrated them to others. Uncle Tom and his cabin served as a symbol of freedom and a person who endured slavery through his strong Christian faith. Slavery was an immoral and vicious system that those who were enslaved faced. A person with righteous morals will have a sense of rightful doing and treatments towards the slaves, while those who contain evil in them would do horrible acts. Today, these good people should fight for Black Lives Matter and fight against police brutality and the prison industrial system, which continues to mistreat and enslave black and brown people.
- Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. London :J. Cassell, 1852.
- Ponti, Crystal. “America’s History of Slavery Began Long Before Jamestown.” Google, Google, 14 Aug. 2019, Nwww.google.com/amp/s/www.history.com/.amp/news/american-slavery-before-jamestown-1619.
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 4 May 2020, www.britannica.com/topic/Uncle-Toms-Cabin.
- McRae, Matthew. “The Story of Slavery in Canadian History.” CMHR, 2019, humanrights.ca/story/the-story-of-slavery-in-canadian-history.
- History.com Editors. “Slavery in America.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 12 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery.