Ohio National History Day Essay Contest
Ohio NOW sponsored an award for the Ohio National History Day essay contest. The winners in the category “Ohio Women’s Contributions to Societal Change” were Anna and Laura Hundert of Shaker Heights High School. Wendy Tullis presented the award of $100 and a plaque on April 28. Following is the bibliography and photos of the winners and the exhibit on the topic of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Novel That Changed A Nation.” This is our first women’s history essay contest award since the 1980’s.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Novel
That Changed a Nation
Anna Hundert and Laura Hundert
Senior Division, Group Exhibit
We are twin sisters with very different interests. When we found out this year’s theme for NHD, we tried to choose a relevant topic that would interest both of us and work well as an exhibit. One of us wanted a topic centered on social justice and civil rights. The other is a passionate writer and is interested in how literature affects the real world. We brainstormed together and with our older sister, a former NHD exhibit participant, and both became excited about exploring the social and political impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Our initial plan was to focus on the divergent impacts of the book on the North vs. South, but we quickly learned about its influence internationally and decided to include how Stowe’s book particularly influenced Britain in its position of neutrality in the Civil War.
We started our research using historical databases to find newspaper articles from the time which referenced Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the serialized novel was being released, finding dramatically different reactions in Northern and Southern newspapers. We then discovered the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and other valuable
repositories of historical documents and references. We also took out the novel as well as some very useful secondary sources from our public library. In our APUSH classes we watched an informative film about the racist portrayals of blacks in the late 1800s in media, which led us to explore the broader social impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as part of our exhibit.
We enjoy being creative with school projects, so an exhibit was our obvious choice of category. A family friend built a wooden tri-fold for us, and we asked him to make it a few inches shorter than the maximum height so that a title would be able to extend from the top. Our design
also included a trapezoidal lower panel, which increased the surface area
within our space. We found “log cabin” wallpaper online and ordered two rolls with which we covered the plain wooden board. First we had to paint the board with primer so that the wallpaper glue would stick, and then we cut and applied the wallpaper. Thinking of a creative way to present the title, we eventually found a plaque that is the cross section of a log, and bought a wood-burning kit to burn the title into it. We used wooden blocks to make the title headings pop out and ordered small U.S and Confederate flags for additional visual effect.
The impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabinfits perfectly with this year’s theme of Revolution, Reaction, and Reform. The novel was certainly revolutionary at the time because of its emotional anti-slavery message. The multiple reactions, not only in the North and the South, but in Britain and around the world, led to dramatic political and even military outcomes that might have never occurred without this literary work. The reforms which resulted from these divergent reactions are still being felt today.
“American Slavery: English Opinion of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ – Evils of Slavery…” London Times 3 Sept. 1852: n. pag. Print. This newspaper article is a compelling argument for the influence of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the popular opinion of the British regarding American slavery. It will be useful in the international section of the exhibit.
An Answer to Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Aunt Phillis’s Cabin, or Southern Life as It Is. 1852. Penn State Alumni Library. Web. 7 Dec. 2011. <http://alumni.libraries.psu.edu/anniv_civilwar.html>.
This poster advertising “Aunt Phillis’s Cabin” demonstrates Southern anti-“Uncle Tom” sentiments of the 1850’s. It was written as a rebuttal against the anti-slavery feelings provoked by “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and portrays slavery as a positive institution for both slaves and masters.
Caution!! Colored People of Boston… 1851. Justseeds. Web. 23 Dec. 2011. This poster provides useful context in that it shows the North’s disapproval of the Fugitive Slave Act, and is from the window of time between the law and the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Cruikshank, George. Scipio Hunted – Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 1853. The Lost Museum – Uncle Tom’s Cabin Archive. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <http://chnm.gmu.edu////>. This dramatic illustration from the first British edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is a powerful visual and demonstrates how it was not merely the text itself which stimulated anti-slavery sentiment. In addition, the fact that a famous British artist was touched enough to create this art reinforces the international effect in the thesis.
Ditson, Oliver. “I Am Going There” or the Death of Little Eva: Written and Ascribed to the Readers of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” 1852. Cornell University Lib. Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections. “I Will Be Heard!” Abolitionism in America. Web. 7 Dec. 2011. <http://rmc.library.cornell.edu//_tom/_pic2.htm>. This is the cover of sheet music written for “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” It features a dramatic illustration of Eva’s death which can be used on the board. In addition, there is the implied fact that the novel was significant and moving enough to inspire music.
“Excerpt from letter written from Southern woman to her sister in the North concerning Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The Daily Picayune11 Feb. 1853: n. pag. Print. This letter, published in a New Orleans newspaper, illustrates the Southern perspective regarding Uncle Tom’s Cabin – essentially, that it is a lie. It also shows how this issue was so divisive, even among families.
“Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.” Congressional Records 18 Sept. 1850: n. pag. Print. The Fugitive Slave Act was instrumental in creating the atmosphere of sectional tensions that, combined with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, sparked the Civil War. The North was particularly outraged by the clause that required them to directly participate in the recapture of fugitive slaves.
“Harriet Beecher Stowe: Death of the Authoress of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’” The New York Times2 July 1896: n. pag. Print. This obituary from a newspaper provides information about Harriet Beecher Stowe’s life and the impact of her writings on American history. This source is especially valuable because it is relatively contemporary while also retrospective.
Haven, John. Slavery as it exists in America. 1850. Library of Congress. Library of Congress Database. Web. 27 Dec. 2011. <http://www.loc.gov////>. This political cartoon demonstrates the Southern view that slavery was beneficial to both whites and blacks, portraying slaves as happy laborers. It is a powerful visual that adds character to the board.
“One Effect of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’” The New York Times – Originally in the London News 14 July 1896: n. pag. Print. This article describes the effect of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on British opinions regarding slavery. It directly states that this was the reason for Britain’s non-intervention in the war, and thus the North’s victory.
Read and Ponder the Fugitive Slave Law! 1850. Intercollegiate Studies Institute – American Studies Center. Web. 7 Dec. 2011. <http://faculty.isi.org/////>. This poster from 1850 condemns the Fugitive Slave Act as disregarding personal liberties, which was a common sentiment of the North. The dramatic headline (top half) will be used as a visual on the board.
“Review on Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Southern Press 1852: n. pag. Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <http://utc.iath.virginia.edu//at.html>. This book review from a Washington DC newspaper is helpful because it presents the novel in the context of the other events in that time period. It also demonstrates the Southern pro-slavery perspective on the novel’s issues.
“Slave Life! Or Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Adelphi Theatre, London 1852: n. pag. Trading Faces: Recollecting Slavery. Web. 27 Dec. 2011. This playbill advertises an 1852 London production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The synopsis which the archive provides excellently describes how British antislavery sentiments were heightened by Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
“Southern Slavery: A Glance at Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The New York Times 16 July 1853: n. pag. Print. This testimony, attributed to “A Southerner,” demonstrates the pro-slavery sentiment which was emboldened in the indignation against Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It accuses Harriet Beecher Stowe of exaggeration and describes the opposite extreme of slavery, in which the system benefits both slave and master.
Stevens, John Austin, Benjamin Franklin DeCosta, and Et al. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Mrs. Stowe.” The Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries 1890: 18. Online Books. Web. 29 Dec. 2011. This magazine provides valuable information about British reactions to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it includes a good quote from Charles Dickens. It demonstrates how the British working class could relate to the troubles of American slaves.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Yiddish Edition. N.p.: n.p., n.d. The Mendele Review – Yiddish Versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Web. 23 Dec. 2011.<http://yiddish.haifa.ac.il///.htm#i7>. This image of the Yiddish translation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin emphasizes the international appeal and widespread reading of the novel. It also shows that the popularity continued throughout the beginning of the 20th century, as its publication date is 1911.
Thompson, Paul. “Uncle Carl Sells Uncle Tom Down the MovieRiver.” Los Angeles 1927: n. pag. Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture. Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <http://utc.iath.virginia.edu////at.html>. This article, which also includes primary visuals, demonstrates the continued effects of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” through the film industry of the early 20th century. This reinforces the idea that “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is still relevant even after the Civil War.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin For Sale Here. 1859. National Constitution Center. Web. 7 Dec. 2011. <http://constitutioncenter.org///_12059.html>. This poster, advertising the sale of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” is visually appealing and therefore will be used on the board. It hails the novel as “The Greatest Book of the Age” and also advertizes a German translation, indicating the international appeal.
Secondary Sources are upon request.