After reading this passage, students will be able to understand the person behind the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and how this book may have been instrumental in opening the eyes of previously ambivalent White Northerners about the Southern slave economy. This book added much fervor to the abolitionists cause across the North; further deepening the North-South divide and eventually the Civil War.
SS5H1a The student will explain the causes, major events, and consequences of the
Civil War: Identify Uncle Tom’s Cabin and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, and explain how each of these events was related to the Civil War.
Teachers/parents, you are free to download or print the article below. After you have printed this article, allow students to close read this article. Encourage them to annotate as they read. After they have completed their reading, get ready to answer their questions or prompt as necessary.
What is Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a book written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896). Many historians credit Uncle Tom’s cabin for sowing the seeds of what would eventually become the bloodiest conflict America has ever known. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published on March 20, 1852. The ten years after its publication culminated in the outbreak of the war, Civil War, in 1862. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of the most popular books of its time. The book sold over 300, 000 copies in three months .
Who was Harriet Beecher Stowe?
Harriet Elisabeth Beecher, the sixth of 11 children, was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, CT to the Rev. Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), a Presbyterian minister and Roxanna Foote Beecher (1775- 1816). All 7 Beecher sons eventually became ministers themselves. Obviously, the Beecher household upheld Christian principles.
Why She Wrote the Book
Beecher- Stowe has proclaimed many inspirations behind her book. However, happenings within her own life paint a clear image behind her inspirations. She got married at age 21 to a professor of theology and subsequently had 7 children of her own. In the summer of 1849 Harriet lost one of her children, Samuel Charles Stowe, to cholera; a bacterial disease that causes diarrhea and vomiting. Mrs. Stowe credits that traumatic experience as the most influential reason why she wrote Uncle Toms Cabins. Through the loss of her child, she was able to understand what it must have felt for a mother to have lost a child during slavery . During slavery, many families were ripped apart and sold off to various plantations inside and outside of the United States. Can you image waking up one morning to find out that your mother, father, and brothers and sisters are all gone? That is what it was like living on a plantation. Many slave-masters would engage in such practices as a way to punish slaves, or as a way of repaying debt.
Beecher Stowe was against the Fugitive Slave Law. The fugitive slave law basically made everyone responsible for maintaining the slave system, according to Stowe. And This was a system that she was vigorously opposed to. The Fugitive Slave Law was a law passed by the United States Congress that made it illegal for members of the public to help or harbor runaway slaves. Many Slaves were helped on the Underground Railway, usually at great risk to the Conductors; the abolitionists helping them on their way to freedom.
Beecher Stowe started publishing her narratives on June 5, 1851 in the anti-slavery newspaper, The National Era[2 ].
Talking about why she wrote the book, Harriet Beecher Stowe said:
“I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity – because as a lover of my county, I trembled at the coming day of wrath.”
What Was the Impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin?
Beecher Stowe’s novel should best be described as realistic fiction. That is mainly because the characters were all made up; however, they were based on the life of actual people and a combination of many narratives of people who were actually enslaved. On the Harriet Beecher Stowe Foundation website it states that “Stowe enlisted friends and family to send her information and she scoured freedom narratives and anti-slavery newspapers for firsthand accounts as she composed her story.”. The impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in America is thought to have increased the tensions between the North and the South. For the first time, white audiences in America were truly horrified of the realities of slavery inside the United States. This resulted in public opinion, especially in the North, turning against slavery and the spirit of abolitionism swept the land.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Civil War
As with many things in life, the precise impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel on the Civil War may never be quantified. However, what is certain is that the novel captured the hearts, minds and emotions of people for and against slavery. This led to an increased North-South divide in the United States. Since one of the pillars of slavery lied with the continued dehumanization of a people, the book had the profound impact of bringing empathy to the main characters in the book, slaves, and eventually to the whole enslavement and dehumanization of people.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, without a double made Harriet Beecher Stowe into a global celebrity and a rallying cry to end slavery in the United States of America. Upon Meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, it is written that Abraham Lincoln remarked:
“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this Great War!” 
1. Harriet Beecher Stowe. (2014). The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center website. Accessed August 12, 2014, from https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/utc/impact.shtml.
2. Harriet Beecher Stowe. (2014). The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center website. Accessed August 12, 2014, from https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/hbs/
3. The Cambridge Companion to Harriet Beecher Stowe, ed. Cindy Weinstein (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 1.
4. Harriet Beecher Stowe. (2014). The History Channel website. Accessed August 12, 2014, from http://www.history.com/topics/harriet-beecher-stowe.