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Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe


Uncle Tom, Topsy, Sambo, Simon Legree, little Eva: their names are American bywords, and all of them are characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe's remarkable novel of the pre-Civil War South. Uncle Tom's Cabin was revolutionary in 1852 for its passionate indictment of slavery and for its presentation of Tom, "a man of humanity," as the first black hero in American fiction. Labeled racist and condescending by some contemporary critics, it remains a shocking, controversial, and powerful work -- exposing the attitudes of white nineteenth-century society toward "the peculiar institution" and documenting, in heartrending detail, the tragic breakup of black Kentucky families "sold down the river." An immediate international sensation, Uncle Tom's Cabin sold 300,000 copies in the first year, was translated into thirty-seven languages, and has never gone out of print: its political impact was immense, its emotional influence immeasurable.

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Recommendations: 1

Categories: ClassicsLiterature & FictionHistorical Fiction

Reading time: 1517 hours

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Tyler Cowen
Economist and Professor

Very often the books that are vivid to me are books I’ve read recently or in the last year. A book—I think it was very, very famous in it’s time, one of the best sellers of its century, but people have stopped reading it, and that is Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is a book about migration, a book about travel, a book about race, obviously a book about slavery, a book about America in the middle of the nineteenth century. It has vivid characters. The issues maybe for a while seemed obsolete, but they’re highly, highly relevant today. It just bleeds a kind of humanity on virtually every page and communicates what the suffering is like of being in a tragic situation and how there are some structural features of America that tend to breed those kinds of tragedies—slavery in that day, often on migration issues today.