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On this day in 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first published in serial form in The National Era
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On this day in 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first published in serial form in The National Era. Despite the novel’s perpetuation of many racial stereotypes, it was absolutely pivotal in revealing the cruelties of slavery to white northerners, many of whom were not directly exposed to them. The book was immensely popular, selling 10,000 copies in the first week it was published and 300,000 in the first year.
Did you know? Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write the serial (later turned novel) by her anger at the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. The law required everyone (including everyday citizens) to aid in the capture of fugitive slaves.
The Uncle Tom character was inspired by a real-life person: Josiah Henson, who had escaped from slavery and written a memoir of his experiences. Stowe interviewed Henson while writing her book, and he was encouraged by its eye-opening effect on the country.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was so eye-opening, in fact, that to this day Lincoln is attributed as having remarked to Stowe, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”
Title page of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Hammatt Billings, 1852
-Written by Anna Zemaitaitis, Communications and Design Officer