Tompkins County Public Library

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mightier Than The Sword: The Impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

This exhibit, curated by Julee Johnson, is displayed  in conjunction with our Sesquicentennial Celebration and Freedom to Read/Banned Book Week, and is made possible with material on loan from the Seward House Museum in Auburn and the Friends of the Tompkins County Public Library.

Called the most popular and influential novel of the 19th century – and Sunday School fiction by her literary critics –Uncle Tom’s Cabin was intended by Stowe to change minds and inspire the abolitionist movement. An unexpected runaway bestseller when it was published in 1852, it is one of the few novels of any era to evoke an entire genre of fiction written in protest, the pro-slavery plantation novel where masters are kind and slaves are happy. 

The sway Uncle Tom’s Cabin held on Northerners and Southerners alike lit a fuse that culminated in the Civil War. The novel was misinterpreted by promoters of minstrel shows, who used exaggerated characters from the novel to amuse their audiences and demean African-Americans. Attitudes toward Uncle Tom’s Cabin have always been conflicted, which this exhibit of books, artifacts and posters explains. 

Special opening reception is being held on Friday, September 26 at 7PM, and on Sundary, September 28 at 2 PM Elmira College Professor Charlie Mitchell will present “Re-reading Uncle Tom's Cabin after Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave,” an illustrated lecture.  This program will be held in the Library’s BorgWarner Community Room.

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