Thursday, March 20, 2003
Cincinnati stay played role in Stowe's story
On March 20, 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin or Life Among the Lowly was published in book form. The immensely popular tale of slavery had been serialized the previous year in the abolitionist magazine National Era.
Stowe based her anti-slavery story on information she learned while living in Cincinnati from 1832 to 1850. She had come to Cincinnati from Connecticut when her Calvinist father, the Rev. Lyman Beecher, became president of Lane Seminary. While here, she visited a plantation in Kentucky and talked to the Rev. John Rankin, a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Ripley, Ohio.
Stowe moved to Brunswick, Maine, in 1850 - the same year that the Fugitive Slave Law, mandating that escaped slaves be returned to their owners, was passed. Outraged by the law and encouraged by her brother, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, to write anti-slavery propaganda, she began work on Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Eliza, one of the central characters, was developed from an account Rankin told to Stowe. It was the story of a fugitive slave woman who escaped across a frozen Ohio River clutching her child. Some 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the first year.
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