First Day of Spring!
Uncle Tom's Cabin Published – 1852
Can fiction inspire people to do what's right?
You bet! A white woman from Connecticut and Ohio, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote a novel about a slave—and it became the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century, and the second best-selling book of all types (fiction and non-fiction) of the century, as well. (The Bible was the top seller.) Although the book had already been published in serial form in a magazine (each month a new chapter), when it was released in book form on this day in 1852, people snatched up copies, and the first printing of 5,000 books sold out in just a few days. An unprecedented 300,000 copies sold in the first year of publication.
The book was sentimental but realistic in showing the horrific nature of slavery, and it made many people into abolitionists—that is, people who believed that slavery should be abolished entirely. Of course, many people in the South hated the book and protested its publication.
Some years later, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln met Stowe and (at least supposedly) said, “So you are the little woman who started this great war.”
Uncle Tom's Cabin was the right book at the right time, and it inspired people to care about the rights of others.