Just this week, I learned that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin because of something her sister said in a letter she had written to her. Her words were, “If I could use my pen as you can, I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is.” It was at that very moment that Harriet vowed to write something.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin became an international bestseller and was well received by abolitionists but reviled by the South. The book caused such an stir that when she met Abraham Lincoln during the war between the states he remarked, “So this is the little lady who made this big war!”
Harriet was one of the foremost campaigners for the abolition of slavery in America. When she was 21, she witnessed the horrors of the race riots in Cincinnati where she lived and that greatly impacted her life and work. Harriet wrote regularly to the magazine National Era which championed the cause of African Americans and it was in that same magazine where Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in serialized form in 1851. Harriet educated people all over the United States about the plight of African Americans.
Sometimes it’s not us but someone else who says or does something which galvanizes us into action. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Blacks are shown as fully human and, more importantly, as created in the image of Christ. Harriet was a Christian woman. After Harriet struggling with issues of faith while growing up at the age of fourteen, she gave her life to Christ.
Sadly, the critics of her book, were harsh even to the point where when one of her children died, some claimed that God had taken the child to keep Harriet from growing vain over her success. Her response was, “I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed & brokenhearted, with the sorrows & injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity–because as a lover of my country I trembled at the coming day of wrath.“
People will always be criticized for speaking out against injustices, inequality, racism, etc. but we have to live with our consciences. In whatever small we can make a difference to change and improve our world, we must do us. All it takes is one act of faith–one voice to be heard and before you know it, you have many voices united in the desire for change.
Harriet Beecher Stowe used her pen to bring to life many vivid and memorable characters and the unforgettable image of Eliza crossing the Ohio river by leaping from chunk to chunk of ice was based on the true account of a desperate fugitive. Harriet used her pen to show that slavery was “the essence of all abuse”.
Common sense is seeing things as they are; and doing things as they ought to be ― Harriet Beecher Stowe