Blogs > Cliopatria > Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive

Jul 7, 2006 1:14 pm

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive

Believed by many people at the time to have been one of the chief causes of the Civil War, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the most important works in American literature. Its impact on American culture was quite extensive and this well-designed site explores Uncle Tom's Cabin “as an American cultural phenomenon.”

The site offers two main sections and a search. “Browse mode” is the most extensive. The sub-section"Pre Texts, 1830-1852" provides dozens of texts, songs, and images from the various genres Stowe drew upon, including Christian texts, sentimental culture, anti-slavery texts, and minstrel shows. The sub-section on “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” includes Stowe's preface, multiple versions of the text, playable songs from the novel, and Stowe's defense against criticism, The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. A third sub-section focuses on responses to the book from 1852 to 1930, including 12 reviews, more than 100 articles and notes, 20 responses from African Americans, and dozens of pro-slavery responses. The final sub-section explores"Other Media," including children's books, songs, games, and theatrical versions. The less extensive “Interpret mode” section offers an interactive timeline (1830-1930) featuring period music, posters, images of diary pages, and contemporary illustrations. Other exhibits explore such topics as how slavery and race were defined and redefined and how the character of Topsy was created and re-created, assuming a range of political and social meanings.

Teaching resources include an extensive guide to teaching Uncle Tom’s Cabin that offers lesson plans, resource lists, and a student’s page; a guide to using Uncle Tom’s Cabin to explore slavery; and a guide to hymns, songs, and music in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The search allows simple keyword or more advanced searches by document category and date. But there is no capability to search for specific images, songs, texts, etc. Although it is somewhat lacking in contextualization, this website an excellent one for both for teachers and students.

Read a more in-depth review written by Ellen Noonan of the American Social History Project and published in the Journal of American History at or explore other U.S. history website reviews at History Matters.

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