Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Presentation by Robert Martinez
Primary Source: War, Terrible War by Joy Hakim
Images as cited.
Harriet was the smallest of the Beecher’s
children. She never grew to be more than
five feet tall. But size has nothing to do
with ability.
In fact, Harriet Beecher, who married Calvin
Stowe, became the most famous American
women of her day. And all because of a
book she wrote, a book that changed
Growing up in New England, slavery had
seemed so far away. Now, while attending
school in Ohio, a free state, Harriet stood
on the banks of the river looking across at
Kentucky, a slave state.
She watched boats filled with slaves in
chains who were being shipped south to be
sold at slave markets.
One day she saw a baby pulled from its
chained mother’s arms. She saw a look of
anguish on the mother’s face. She never
forgot that look.
Once, Harriet, was invited to Kentucky to
visit a friend who lived on a plantation and
owned slaves. The friend and her family
were kind people, and she saw slavery at
its best.
But when Harriet and her friend rode
horses to a neighboring plantation, they
saw a cruel overseer abusing blacks.
Harriet remembered the kindness and the
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Harriet was becoming a writer. She wrote
stories and poems. Then, when she married
and had babies, there never seemed to be
enough money. So Harriet wrote stories to
earn money.
Harriet had learned a lot about slavery, and
it made her very angry. Her brother
Edward’s wife said to her, “If I could write
as you do I would write something to make
this whole nation feel what an accursed
thing slavery is.”
And that was just what Harriet Beecher
Stowe did. She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
It was the most important American book
written in the 19th century. It may be the
most influential book ever written in
America. Its chapters were first printed in a
Within a week of its publication as a book
(in 1852), 10,000 copies had been sold, and
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was just getting started.
Before the Civil War began, two million
copies were bought in the U.S., and it was
translated into many languages and sold
around the world.
Anyone who reads Uncle Tom’s Cabin and
doesn’t cry at the end has a hard heart. It
was the first American novel to make real
people of blacks, and it made people care.
Harriet tried to be fair when she wrote the
book. She made the horrible overseer,
Simon Legree, a Northerner. Legree is the
villain in the story.
Uncle Tom, a saintly black man, is strong
and heroic, the finest person in the book.
In the novel, the two black men who beat
him are evil. Some white plantation owners
are good people. Harriet was trying to
show that color has nothing to do with
whether a person is good or bad.
What she showed very well was that the
system of slavery was evil and that even
good people did evil things when they were
part of the system.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin changed people’s ideas
about slavery. It made people in the North
angry. It made them willing to fight a war to
end slavery.
In the South it was against the law to buy or
sell this book. Why do you think that is?
When President Lincoln met Harriet
Beecher Stowe during the Civil War he said
to her, “So this is the little lady who wrote
the book that made this great war.”

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