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Video transcript

hey Kim hey Becca so we've been talking about Uncle Tom's Cabin published in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe and said to have been one of the main causes of the American Civil War so remind me again what Uncle Tom's Cabin was actually about so Uncle Tom's Cabin was about the horrors of slavery in the deep south and also appealed to a lot of Americans Christian values and tried to point out these fundamental contradictions between Christian faith and slavery so it was published in 1852 how did people receive this book so there's a lot of mixed reactions but it was the most read book of the 19th century so there were a lot of reactions and so in the North mostly people were reading this all the time no matter if you were an intellectual or just kind of a 17 year old picking up a book off a shelf you were going to read Uncle Tom's Cabin and a lot of the people that actually read the book were young men that would later fight in the Civil War interesting okay so like this would be our book club book of the month except everybody was this was like the Oprah's Book Club choice of 1852 exactly everybody was reading it yeah there's really almost nothing like it like not even Harry Potter but it did have the same international scope that Harry Potter does today so it was popular in the northern United States and elsewhere in the world so where else was it popular mostly in Europe but it was translated into over 60 languages and this also kind of put the spotlight on American slavery so there was all this international attention what is going on in America and what's gonna happen so interesting it reminds me of the king and I he's seen that she the woman goes to Siam and shows people the book Uncle Tom's Cabin and they put on a version of a play based on Uncle Tom's Cabin in what would be Thailand so yeah so this makes it this kind of international spectacle the fate of slavery had to be somehow figured out and everyone was watching that's so interesting so I am imagining that white Southerners were not big fans this book so white Southerners were definitely not a fan of Uncle Tom's Cabin and in response there was this movement of these things called anti Tom novels so here's an anti Tom novel right next to us right over here aunt Phyllis is cabin so aunt versus cabin yes very creative name these anti Tom novels aim to point out that maybe Harriet Beecher Stowe didn't know what she was actually talking about they also accused Harriet Beecher Stowe of not actually even living in the deep south so she didn't even know what slavery was like they wanted to paint southern slave Society in this really positive light they wanted to show all the ways that it actually maintained social order and promoted economic welfare so this was kind of this response from the south also in novel form yeah so it's this big kind of cultural battle over the interpretation of slavery you have people on one hand saying yeah slavery is destructive to families slavery is incompatible with Christianity and then responses from the white South saying oh no actually slavery is great it helps everybody right so there was this kind of battle within the literary community about the peculiar institution of slavery which one was it so what if I'm illiterate right I mean not everybody in nineteenth-century America was a New England intellectual who was reading Christian novels how would I have heard about Uncle Tom's Cabin that's a really good point Kim so Tom shows were depictions of Uncle Tom's Cabin in theaters around the world and so they were oftentimes put on by abolitionist people trying to point out the issues with slavery today and end slavery immediately so this is before there's copyright law right so you can just put on a show of anybody's novel if you feel like it exactly but oftentimes they really misconstrued the novel and actually now are remembered as contributing to the problem of racism in America racial stereotypes too I would imagine because we still have this phrase Uncle Tom kind of to mean an african-american who is a martyr to the status quo as opposed to someone who might fight against racism seems like they might have borrowed a lot of these stereotypes from minstrel shows which were also very popular in this time period and some of the characters within these minstrel shows turned into the character that was remembered as Jim Crow which became the dominating racial order after the Civil War so in the civil rights era in the mid-1950s lots of activists actually wanted to completely reject the progress that Uncle Tom's Cabin and these Tom shows had made because they actually reduced African Americans to this terrible stereotype and so later on this kind of idea that someone was an Uncle Tom became a racial slur really and they then rejected Uncle Tom's Cabin as being a tool towards racial equality and more sought as part of the problem so I think the most important thing about Uncle Tom's Cabin is that it's this catalyst of really intense emotions about slavery which in the 1850s will lead eventually to civil war and now following the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin you'll see more and more violence on both sides of this issue for example John Brown this famous abolitionist actually goes out to Kansas and murders people and I think that Lincoln was very astute and pointing out that Uncle Tom's Cabin really catalyzed a lot of this violence and he even met with Harriet Beecher Stowe so she earned herself a little meeting with Abraham Lincoln and he said so you're the little lady that started this great war I'm trying to think of another book that has started a war I think we would probably remember that but I do think Lincoln was really a student pointing out just how impactful this cultural phenomenon this tom mania was on the question of slavery and on the fate of the American people and really it just begs the question in a new way in this kind of public setting I mean you just think that the book itself the way that the book could just travel all around the United States and so many different kinds of people were able to read it and get their hands on it this really was just this movement people just thinking a lot about slavery reading a lot about slavery yeah like you know after Uncle Tom's Cabin I don't think there was a way to not have an opinion on the slavery issue either you were for it or you were against it and that divisive 'no Swilly to the civil war and again there's this international focus there's a deeper sectional divide between the north and the south and there was this kind of sorting over the slavery question that Uncle Tom's Cabin really promoted