A groundbreaker, reconsidered
Almost a full decade before the American Civil War, Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, helped generate the national debate over abolition. The story of Tom, a Kentucky slave who struggles to keep his family together, and the evil he encounters at the hands of white men like plantation owner Simon Legree, the novel initially appeared as a serial in the magazine National Era. Published in book form in 1852, it became one of the top-selling titles in the world in the 19th century. In recent years Stowe has been blamed for introducing to our culture, however unintentionally, some incredibly durable racial stereotypes the acquiescent Uncle Tom; the boisterous pickaninny and the criticism has overshadowed her novel's many merits. Working to restore the book's reputation, author Henry Louis Gates Jr. and scholar Hollis Robbins have collaborated on The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, which should reaffirm the narrative's place in the American literary canon. Using solid scholarship to provide an affectionate yet balanced evaluation of the work, Gates and Robbins co-wrote the notes and introduction of this lavish new edition. Featuring reproductions of original illustrations, their text is likely to become the final word on Stowe's groundbreaking book.