Whitewashing Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: Vanderbilt University Press
Table of Contents
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Perhaps this book began with a nineteenth-century photograph, grainy and indistinct, handed down in my family from mother to daughter for six generations. The woman in the photo is old, her mouth a thin, determined line, her jaw set stubbornly, and her hair the color of the Birmingham steel-mill smog that would, during the early and mid–twentieth century, ...
Introduction: The Personal Becomes the Project
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Few books have had more impact upon the history of the United States and, consequently, on more American lives than Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Few books have evoked such powerful emotional responses—and few continue, scores of years later, to do so. One has only to mention Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a faculty lounge or classroom of any American university to provoke a flurry of strident responses, often from those ...
Chapter 1 “To Woman . . . I Say Depart!”: The Plantation Literary Tradition, the Emergent Anti–Uncle Tom Novel, and Gender
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In writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe herself, whether consciously or not, was writing both within and against the plantation-romance tradition—as were the writers who attempted to rebut her.1 Consequently, it is important to examine first the plantation literary tradition and its evolution into anti–Uncle Tom novels. Laid out by such popular ...
Chapter 2 Sanctified by Wealth and Whiteness: Mother-Saviors—and Not—in the Urban North
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And you, mothers of America,” Harriet Beecher Stowe implores the audience of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “by the sacred love you bear your child, . . . I beseech you” (384, italics mine). Plantation romances and anti–Uncle Tom novels by women commonly employ similar direct appeals, one mother to another. Like Stowe, too, her fictive detractors consistently ...
Chapter 3 Justified by Mother’s Milk: Mammy and Mistress Figures in Proslavery Fiction’s Plantation South
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Pointing to white slaveholding males’ sexual license with female slaves, abolitionist Wendell Phillips labeled the antebellum South “one giant brothel” (108). To counter such charges, proslavery advocates constructed the mammy figure to represent the mutual affection that bridged black and white worlds: plantation life as one big, happy, biracial family....
Chapter 4 The Background that Belies the Myth: The Historical Record that Helps Explain the Preponderance of Nonslaveholding Proslavery Women Authors
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Harriet Beecher Stowe envisions powerful, prophetic white and black women—mothers, community leaders, preachers—as holding hope for the nation’s societal healing and moral redemption. In replicating her techniques and ideology, proslavery women writers also script white and occasionally black female characters as angels and Christ figures unwavering in their mission, role, and faith in the South’s slave-based economy. Yet in comparing these novels with the journals and letters of ...
Chapter 5 Mothering the Other, Othering the Mother: An African American Woman Novelist Battles Slavery and Uncle Tom
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Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig triangulates the Uncle Tom/anti–Uncle Tom dichotomy, combining characteristics of proslavery novels, particularly The Ebony Idol and The North and South, and of the antislavery Uncle Tom’s Cabin—and pointedly differing with both.1 The author, a free African American woman living in the North, explains in the first paragraphs of her preface that she is publishing this narrative in the hope of earning sufficient income to support herself and her child; like Stowe’s,...
Chapter 6 Still Playing with Fire: Perpetuation and Refutation of the Plantation Romance in Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Novels by Women
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As Theodore Gross asserts: “America is a civilization whose literature cannot be fully understood apart from the culture that has helped to shape it” (v). Conversely, American literature has shaped the culture that produced it. During the 150 years since the composition of the first fictive rebuttals to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Southern plantation mythmaking has ...
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Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2005