Harriet Beecher Stowe learned evils of slavery in Cincinnati firsthand

by Steve Kemme

Harriet Beecher Stowe learned evils of slavery in Cincinnati firsthand.

Author and Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe

Author and Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Before moving from Connecticut to Cincinnati in 1832, Harriet Beecher Stowe knew a little bit about slavery.

But living in Cincinnati, a city that bordered a slave state and was deeply divided by the slavery issue, she quickly deepened her knowledge.

Stowe, who was 21 when she arrived in Cincinnati, learned in graphic detail about its horrors from freed and fugitive slaves and from conductors of the Underground Railroad who helped slaves escape to freedom. She even witnessed a slave auction while traveling in Kentucky with a friend.

Her experiences during her 18 years in Cincinnati formed the foundation for the writing of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” after she moved in 1850 to Brunswick, Maine.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly” – serialized in 1851 in an abolitionist periodical and published as a book in 1852 – was one of the most influential novels in American history. It placed the evils of slavery in the national spotlight and escalated tensions between the North and the South.

When Stowe met President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, he supposedly said to her, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!”

No one has ever confirmed that Lincoln said that. But the droll comment fit Lincoln’s dry sense of humor, and there’s a great deal of truth in the statement itself.

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