Thursday, July 23, 2009

Letter to Mrs. Stowe

I found this letter from Frederick Douglass to Harriet Beecher Stowe, which he read to the Colored National Convention in 1853. There is only this passage specifically addressing the novel,

Dear Madam, my deep sense of the value of the services which you have already rendered my afflicted and persecuted people, by the publication of your inimitable book on the subject of slavery. That contribution to our bleeding cause, alone, involves us in a debt of gratitude which cannot be measured; and your resolution to make other exertions on our behalf excites in me emotions and sentiments, which I scarcely need try to give forth in words. Suffice it to say, that I believe you have the blessings of your enslaved countrymen and countrywomen; and the still higher reward which comes to the soul in the smiles of our merciful Heavenly father, whose ear is ever open to the cries of the oppressed.

I wonder if that made Frederick Douglass an "Uncle Tom?"

7 comments:

  1. It is difficult to imagine at this late date what kind of impact Stowe's book had on someone like Douglass. Must have been huge. But that is difficult for many people to appreciate now. These days "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is discussed (and often dismissed) in light of Stowe's racism.

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  2. I'm still reading a little at a time while waiting on TR -- now there's a racist for you! -- so can't respond fully but it seems like what Stowe did was bring some specificity to slavery which some people would rather have not known. I'm assuming that's why they challenged her on it -- and why she published the defense or whatever it was called.

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  3. There were always those, both before and after the book's publication, who were quick to claim that not all slaveholders treated their slaves badly. There are still people who make that point. But as "Uncle Tom's Cabin" shows, and as Douglass makes clear in his "Autobiography," slavery is dehumanizing.

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  4. Have you read Race and Reunion, rick? I think you would enjoy it because David Blight talks alot about how the Lost Cause and slavery were interpreted after the war, particularly in the South. He covers the 50 years up to Wilson. I'm finding all the book references fascinating.

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  5. Let me second that recommendation. I suspect that it was this book that really made me look at the Civil War/Reconstruction -- and the writing of history -- in new ways.

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  6. I notice it's published by Belknap Press which is a recommendation in and of itself. I have it on order at my local library.

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