Uncle Tom's Cabin
Published in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel that, by one account, "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War".The novel is focussed on the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters—both fellow slaves and slave owners—revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement of fellow human beings. It was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. It is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States alone. In 1855, three years after it was published, it was called "the most popular novel of our day."
The book, and even more the plays it inspired, also helped popularize a number of stereotypes about black people, many of which endure to this day. These include the affectionate, dark-skinned "mammy"; the "pickaninny" stereotype of black children; and the Uncle Tom, or dutiful, long-suffering servant faithful to his white master or mistress. In recent years, these negative associations have, to an extent, overshadowed the historical impact of the book as a "vital antislavery tool."
- Revenant, October 2012
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