Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Murdered for speaking out

Last week, we posted about Activists imprisoned around the world - people who face opposition and sometimes punishment for using their voices to raise awareness on contemporary injustices.The sad reality, however, is that some activists are physically threatened or attacked for their opinions.
One such activist, Sushmita Banerjee, was killed by the Taliban in September for speaking out.

Sushmita BanerjeeLike Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sushmita Banerjee took to writing to share a story. In 1995, she published A Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife, a memoir about her 1994 escape from Afghanistan and the Taliban regime. After being captured and interrogated by the Taliban, she was returned to her home of Calcutta where she wrote and published her memoir. The book was later made into a 2003 Bollywood film, Escape from Taliban, and Banerjee recently returned to Afghanistan to work as a health worker and film the lives of local women.

Her effort to tell her story and speak out was not received well by Taliban militants, and in September of this year members of the political group stormed Banerjee's home, tied up her family, and shot her outside, leaving her body near a religious school. You may recall that the Taliban also attempted to take the life of education activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012.

Tragic stories like Banerjee's connect with the message of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's, who identify the oppression of women as the defining issue of our time. Authors of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and winners of the 2011 inaugural Stowe Prize, Kristof and WuDunn work worldwide to end the oppression of women, empower women, and "provide concrete steps to fight these problems."  Two websites, www.halfthesky.org and www.halftheskymovement.org share action steps and news about their work so that women like Sushmita Banerjee and Malala Yousafzai can use their voices and feel empowered, not endangered.

For more about Sushmita Banerjee, be sure to read the BBC's "Indian diarist Sushmita Banerjee shot dead in Afghanistan." To learn more about Half the Sky, explore the two websites above and read our blog post from a 2011 Stowe Center program about the book. Copies of the book are available in the Stowe Center Museum Shop for $15.95.

Monday, December 30, 2013

What is "Fair Trade"?

Have you ever seen this logo on products that you buy (or perhaps glance past) and wonder what exactly it means? Did you ever wonder why two similar products have such a price discrepancy, the "Fair Trade" product costing a bit more?

This small label represents an international social movement to bring justice to artisans, farmers, and workers across the world, compensating them appropriately for their products and ensuring appropriate working conditions. The Fair Trade Federation defines Fair Trade as:

"...an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system. Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers lack economic opportunity and often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods. Fair trade is much more than just trade. At the core of the fair trade model is a direct, cooperative, and in-depth relationship between buyers and sellers that keeps all of the principles of fair trade at the forefront. Fair Trade is about making a tremendous impact on artisan and farmer communities while offering great products to the public."

In many cases, "free trade" (the opposite of "Fair Trade") products are connected to child labor and human trafficking, issues we often discuss at Stowe Center programs. Check out this short video from Fair Trade USA which shows how small purchasing decisions can make a world of difference.

To learn more about the Fair Trade movement and ways you can take action, we recommend visiting Fair Trade USA and Fair Trade Federation. The Huffington Post also published an article by Christine Prois this past October, "7 Things to Know About Fair Trade," which sheds great light on the realities of free trade products and what Fair Trade purchases accomplish.

Purchasing Fair Trade products is an easy way to make a difference and take action on human trafficking and human rights worldwide. So the next time you see two similar products, one a few dollars more but stamped "Fair Trade Certified," which will you purchase?  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Activists imprisoned around the world

It takes courage to speak out on injustices. Harriet Beecher Stowe put pen to paper starting in 1851 to "make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is." (Isabella Porter Beecher to Harriet Beecher Stowe) Her final product, Uncle Tom's Cabin, indeed moved a nation and - according to the legend surrounding her visit with President Abraham Lincoln - contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. But the national and international success of Uncle Tom's Cabin did not come without a cost. For years after the serialization and publication of the book, Stowe received widespread criticism and was attacked for publishing what many believed to be lies and falsehoods about slavery. She even received death threats and body parts of slaves in the mail. Yet Stowe persevered and continued as an anti-slavery advocate because she believed her actions could make a positive difference.

Today, human rights and political activists continue to face opposition and sometimes punishment for using their voices to raise awareness on contemporary injustices. Following the death of Nelson Mandela earlier this month, Dominique Mosbergen published "Nelson Mandela Was Released From Prison After 27 Years. These 10 Political Prisoners Are Still Waiting" in the Huffington Post, sharing the stories of 10 activists "who are still suffering in jails around the world for standing tall in the face of repression." Their stories highlight acts of incredible courage, as well as the many global issues that still need attention to create a just society.

In the United States, we enjoy the freedom of speech which many around the world do not. This freedom should be a motivation to emulate Harriet Beecher Stowe and use our talents and voices to express our opinions and advocate for justice. Which issues do you advocate for? How might you exercise your freedom of speech in the new year?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lipscomb University's graduation at the Tennessee Prison for Women

Two weeks ago, more than 500 community members, activists, and fans of Orange is the New Black gathered at the Hartford Stage to join the Stowe Center, Twain House & Museum and Community Partners in Action for a program with author of Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman. If you've read the book or watched the hit Netflix series, you will recall that when Piper arrived in prison she offered to help with educating the inmates through their GED program; she recognized that she could use her experience and education to help the other women. She soon learned, however, that education was not a top priority and was assigned to work in the electrical shop.
lipscomb graduationFor some prison systems, however, education is a clear priority. Last week, the Huffington Post reported on Lipscomb University's special graduation at the Tennessee Prison for Women. Starting in 2007, the University offered weekly classes for inmates wishing to work towards their Associate's Degree. After seven years, the first class of nine received their diplomas from the President of Lipscomb in front fellow inmates and professors from the University on December 13.

The Prison and Lipscomb added two additional classes in 2009 and 2011, both of which continue to meet on Wednesday evenings and include outside students from the University as well as inmates. All classes  are at capacity, and the current graduates have a collective 3.7 GPA. The success of the program has lead to the development of a bachelors program which the nine graduates will earn in another 7 years.

To learn more about the services offered to inmates in Connecticut, visit the Department of Corrections website. For more on incarceration and local organizations like Breaking the Cycle and Community Partners in Action that work towards improving the system, visit our Event Recap: "What About the Kids: Incarceration’s Forgotten Victims" post.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What one 8-year-old asked Santa for this year

When you were 8 years old, what did you ask Santa for? A doll? A game? A book? Most kids spend weeks preparing their lists for Santa and dreaming of the toys and gifts they want most. But this year, a young boy North Carolina asked Santa for something different:

HT bully letter split jef 130918 16x9 608 Bullied Girl, Whose Brother Wrote Viral Letter to Santa, Surprised by Favorite Band

This September, Ryan Suffern, of Rocky Mount, N.C., wrote a letter to Santa asking that he stop the kids at school from picking on his fraternal twin sister, Amber:
"kid at school are still picking on Amber and its not fair because she doesnt do anything to them and it makes me mad. I prayed that they will stop but god is bisy and needs your help."

He also went on to ask Santa to have Amber's favorite band, Big Time Rush, to perform at her birthday party, thinking only of his sister in his Christmas wishes. His letter gained attention through social media and on September 20, ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) featured a special on Ryan and Amber's story and the bullying that Amber was facing. GMA even arranged for Amber to meet Big Time Rush with her family! Watch the heart-wrenching story:

"Bullying is a scourge that is taking our most precious resource: the young children of this country" 
- Josh Elliott, Good Morning America

Ryan's letter brings attention to the bullying that kids of all ages face, and the power each of us has to make a difference on issues important to us. What will you ask Santa for this Christmas? Who will you stand up for?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Who goes hungry during the holidays?

Happy Thanksgiving?Around Thanksgiving, the media was abuzz with news that additional cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP," aka food stamps) on November 1, 2013 would leave those most in need to face even tougher struggles during the holidays. At previous Stowe Center events, including the April 25, 2013 Cultivating Food Justice Salon, experts have shared the importance of SNAP to those in need and the impact that such government programs have locally. Rather than be cut, they made clear that SNAP benefits need to be increased.

This holiday season, the Food Research and Action Center has developed the #WhoGoesHungry? campaign to help food justice advocates use their voices and express their opinions to their congresspeople in Washington. Through social media and holiday cards to your representatives in Congress, you can express your support of SNAP. 

In 2012, the Stowe Center awarded the inaugural Student Stowe Prize College Award to Hannah Morgan (University of Maryland) who wrote about the importance yet restrictions of SNAP. To learn more about the realities of SNAP, read one of her articles below:

A 17-ounce box of Frosted Flakes cereal costs around $3 in many local stores. Add a gallon of milk, another $4, and four bananas, $1.56, and the total comes to around $9, not including tax. That’s almost a third of what many American families can afford to spend on food in a week, and that barely covers breakfast.

In response to the National Food Stamp Challenge, at least eight members of Congress, joined by community and religious leaders, decided to live on $31.50 for one week, the average weekly allotment received by millions of Americans living on food stamps. They met outside the Capitol Hill Safeway store on a recent rainy morning. Huddled among umbrellas and empty shopping carts, they spoke to a crowd of food stamp participants and members of the media about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the official name for the food stamp program since 2008.

The event was sponsored by a coalition of four major faith-based organizations: Catholic Charities USA, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the Islamic Society of North America. The groups all united under the banner to “Fight Poverty with Faith”. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said,“we need to fight poverty with faith because we are not doing so well fighting poverty with policy.” Then she, along with other participants, teamed up for a low-budget race through the store, scanning for items on sale and comparing the prices of breakfast cereals and oatmeal packets.

Do you know a high school or college student who, like Hannah, is writing for social justice? If so, encourage them to submit an entry to the 2014 Student Stowe Prize! Entries are due January 10, 2014. Contact StudentStowePrize@stowecenter.org for more information. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Healthy Families Act and MomsRising.org

On November 6, 2013, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, in collaboration with the U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro and Voices of Women of Color, hosted a discussion on the wider economic gender gap faced by minority women as compared to men and even their non-minority female counterparts. In identifying the greatest challenges minority women face in realizing economic equality, common threads were found that affected all women, and consequently all families.

Sandra Cahill, Associate Director of the University of Hartford's Women's Entrepreneurial Center, cited a major initiative that would provide immediate aid to overcome one of those challenges—paid sick leave. The number of women in jobs with non-paid sick leave made a tremendous impact on the health of families, loss of income and job status for individual women as well as impacting the general economy and community at large. MomsRising.org was cited as a resource for women and families in rallying support for the Healthy Families Act, which has the goal of creating a national standard for earned paid sick days.

Visit MomsRising.org to learn about the Healthy Families Act and how you can take action and help close the gender gap. In particular, consider signing the petition urging Congress to support the Healthy Families Act.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Britain announces draft of Modern Slavery Bill

"Modern slavery is an absolutely horrendous crime of people being forced into lives of servitude and misery, of a variety of sorts- maybe labor exploitation, sexual exploitation perhaps forced into a life of crime."
- British Home Secretary Theresa May

Earlier this week, British Home Secretary Theresa May announced a new bill, the Modern Slavery Bill, which will give human traffickers with previous convictions of a serious sexual or violent nature automatic life sentences. The bill will also appoint an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to enforce regulations against human trafficking and work towards not only ending modern day slavery but increasing support for victims. Citing Frank Field, member of Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Human Trafficking Foundation, May reported that at least 10,000 people are trafficked across the UK. 


According to gov.uk, the British government's website, this new bill will: 

  • consolidate existing human trafficking and slavery offences to make the options available to law enforcement, when investigating and pursuing trafficking related charges, administratively simpler and operationally clearer
  • increase the maximum sentence for human trafficking to life imprisonment, to ensure that modern-day slave drivers face the full force of the law
  • introduce an anti-slavery commissioner to galvanise efforts in the UK to challenge modern slavery by working with government and law-enforcement agencies to realise more investigations, prosecutions and convictions of human traffickers
  • introduce slavery and trafficking prevention orders and slavery and trafficking risk orders to restrict movements or impose other prohibitions on convicted or suspected traffickers to reduce the risk they pose
  • create a new requirement for ‘first responders’ to report all suspected cases of human trafficking to the national referral mechanism (NRM). This will improve our understanding of the nature and scale of this crime and help improve our response

For more information about the new bill in Britain, we recommend reading the draft of the bill and impact statement HERE, or The Guardian's "Modern slavery bill to be published" and the BBC's "Life sentences planned for slavery offenders." For information about modern day slavery in the US, check out our recent post "Human Trafficking Trends in the United States" which provides statistics and links to reports. Our event recap post of the "How to Be an Abolitionist Workshop" also has great resources on how to take action.

What law reform do you think we need in the US to help end modern day slavery? Should the US adopt a bill similar to Britain's Modern Slavery Bill? Reflect in the Comments section below. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18: International Migrants Day

Did you know that today, December 18, is International Migrants Day? This annual international day of awareness was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2000, recognizing the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families on December 18, 1990. The day is intended to raise awareness on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants and to ensure their protection.

This year's International Migrants Day is especially poignant following the adoption of an October 2013 Declaration which recognizes "the important contribution of migration to development and called for greater cooperation to address the challenges of irregular migration and to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration." The Declaration of the High-level Dialogue on International Migration 
and Development is available online and is an important step in condemning racism and intolerance towards migrants.

We always look to showcase not only important social justice issues, but ways you can take action on them. Read below, or visit the UN website, to learn more about how you can take action on this International Migrant Day.

Take action with #IAmAMigrant

For International Migrants Day, global citizens can participate online in the following ways:
Beginning 13 December, share photos and videos tied to your personal stories about how migrants positively contribute to communities and economies worldwide. You can join the global conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #IAmAMigrant. From 13-18 December, your photos and stories will be featured on the UN’s Storify page. Explore the many voices of migrants on the multimedia page.

Share these compelling International Migrants Day advocacy materials with your networks!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


The term "microaggression" was first coined in the 1970's, and later popularized by Columbia professor Derald Sue who defined it as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

Our summer 2012 exhibit THEM: Images of Separation (traveling exhibit from Ferris State University) tackled microaggressions, featuring implicit and explicitly racist, stereotyping, and hateful memorabilia. This past summer, our What Can You Do To Fight Intolerance? workshop with Dr. Bill Howe also addressed these issues, one of the most memorable quotes from the event being “no child, no person, should be ashamed of who they are.”

A new Tumblr, Microaggressions, puts faces behind many of the stereotypes and racist comments (both intentional and unintentional) discussed in these and other Stowe Center programs. The creators of the blog define it as:
This blog seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of “microaggressions.” Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt - acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.
This project is NOT about showing how ignorant people can be in order to simply dismiss their ignorance. Instead, it is about showing how these comments create and enforce uncomfortable, violent and unsafe realities onto peoples’ workplace, home, school, childhood/adolescence/adulthood, and public transportation/space environments.

As do our programs, the Tumblr seeks to shed light on these stereotypes and call attention to such injustices. Below are just two examples of featured microaggressions - others can be viewed in BuzzFeed's "21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis" by Heben Nigatu or at microaggressions.tumblr.com.


What microaggressions have you experienced in your life? How have you handled comments that stereotype or offend your race, ethnicity, gender, or lifestyle? Share your responses in the "Comments" section below!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thank you, Charlotte

This past weekend, the nation remembered the lives of those students and teachers lost in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT last December. We share the following from Newtown Kindness' December newsletter. The organization, which honors Charlotte Bacon who lost her life in the tragedy, promote[s] kindness as a guiding principle of humanity. Newtown Kindness is committed to fostering compassion in children and inspiring life-long contributors to society. The organization aims to facilitate acts of kindness within communities as well as raise awareness of kindness through education, sharing and recognition.

Thank you, Charlotte.

For weeks I have been trying to find words that appropriately express the magnitude of this day; the sorrow, the grief, the unimaginable pain that must envelop the lives of so many families of Newtown.  But the truth is, there just are no words.  As a mother, my heart bleeds and my eyes weep at the thought of what happened on 12.14.12.  There simply are no words.

But there is Charlotte.  Charlotte.  The beauty and perfection that is Charlotte Bacon is still here and it floods this world with light and laughter and kindness.  Charlotte was a friend, a cousin, a niece, a granddaughter, a beloved sister and daughter, and today she is a magnificent inspiration for goodness in this universe.  Thank you for teaching us, Charlotte, and for guiding us on this journey to better our world.  We are so very grateful for your generous spirit and infectious love that will forever be the light of so many lives.

So, while there may never be words adequate to describe the profound impact of this day, there willalways be the beautiful gift that is Charlotte Helen Bacon.


In remembering Charlotte and others, Newtown Kindness encourages the spread of kindness and compassion. They offer resources like Kindness Cards, a Kindness Pledge, the Kindness Bucket, and the opportunity to become a Partner in Kindness, and stories about young people making a difference. Visit www.newtownkindness.org to learn more about the organization's work and how you, too, can honor the lives of those lost in Newtown through small acts of kindness. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

One year after the tragedy at Sandy Hook

Tomorrow, December 14, marks the one year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. While the past year has been an unspeakably painful one for the families of the victims and the Newtown community, the families are encouraging people to honor the lives of the students and teachers lost with acts of random kindness.

This morning, MSNBC released an article "Making a senseless tragedy meaningful in Newtown" by Michele Richinick, which tells of family and community members who used the terrible events of 12/14/12 to raise awareness and work for change. The families of the 26 children and teachers who lost their lives have also created a website to honor their loved ones. Visit mysandyhookfamily.org to learn about each person and be inspired to do a random act of kindness in their memory.

How will you take action this weekend? What will be your random act of kindness? 

Malala: We Must Talk to Taliban

131007-malalala-peace-cheatDespite the hurdles she has faced and ongoing push-back from her native Pakistan and others, Malala is not stepping down!

Just weeks ago, sixteen-year-old activist and advocate Malala Yousafzai told the BBC that “The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue,” in particular through necessary dialogue with the Taliban. She also said it is the government's job to open that dialogue, and that the United States should work to secure peace.

Once again, Malala's sentiments reflect the life and work of our very own Harriet Beecher Stowe, who called attention to the injustices of her day and believed that "there is more done with pens than swords..." Similarly, the Stowe Center is a safe place to talk about difficult issues of injustice and inequality that continue to plague our world today - we believe that open dialogue is the key to changing our world.

For more information, check out Malala: We Must Talk to Taliban from The Daily Beast/Newsweek, or our past blog posts "Malala: "ONE...can change the world"" and ""I Am Malala": BANNED."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Piper Kerman event tonight is sold out!

Piper-Kerman-headshotWe are excited to announce a full house for tonight's conversation with Piper Kerman, activist and author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison. Community Partners in Action, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and Mark Twain House & Museum will welcome Kerman to the Hartford Stage for a conversation facilitated by Maureen Price-Boreland, Executive Director of Community Partners in Action.

Although tonight's event is sold out, you can learn more about Kerman, her experience, and the book at piperkerman.com. The hit series called Orange is the New Black, based on Piper's book, is available on Netflix.

This event is the culmination of the Stowe Center's year of programming around Emancipation and the topic of mass incarceration, which also included a program and big tent jubilee honoring 2013 Stowe Prize winner Michelle Alexander for her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and several Salons. Explore our past blog posts for more information about mass incarceration, including Mass Incarceration: Segregation By Another Name and What About the Kids: Incarceration’s Forgotten Victims.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

UN monument to honor the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

To recognize "the bravery of those slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who managed to rise up against an oppressive system, fight for their freedom and end the practice" of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and slavery itself, the United Nations will construct a monument at its Headquarters in New York.  The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched a design competition for the memorial two years ago and after culling through 310 designs from 83 countries, a committee of five international judges selected "The Ark of Return," a design by Manhattan-based architect Rodney Leon.

In the words of the architect, the monument will be  “symbolic spiritual space and object where one can interact and pass through for acknowledgement, contemplation, meditation, reflection, healing, education and transformation."

Michael Gomez, a judge in the competition and professor of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, commented that “I was interested in finding a project that would in some way give expression to that experience, and would allow those who would visit the memorial to have a good sense of what that experience was about and its ongoing implication for various societies.” His comment reminds us all that slavery still exists today through human trafficking and that we must continue the effort to bring justice and equality to all.

To learn more about the UN's monument to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, be sure to read:

‘Ark of Return’: Telling the stories of 15 million slaves in a UN permanent memorial and The Ark of Return.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 10: Human Rights Day

In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 of every year as Human Rights Day in an effort to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human rights "as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations." Later, in 1993, a World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna developed the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which renewed the effort to protect human rights globally. 

On this Human Rights Day, we share two recent news stories about threats against human rights around the world:

"Witholding Workers’ IDs a Form of Saudi Slavery"
by Yori Yanover
(Includes an interesting comparison between withholding worker identification in Saudi Arabia, slavery, and Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin)

"Giving Women in South Africa a Way Out of Sex Work"
by Rosie Spinks

For all the Twitter users out there, we also recommend that you follow Sites of Conscience (Sites of (@SitesConscience1h) which today asked "How do the lessons from the past help us address human rights issues today?" Check out their Twitter feed and also look up #HR2day for more on human rights today. 

What are your reactions to the above articles? What do you see as the status of human rights today? How can organizations like the Stowe Center use "lessons from the past" to "help us address human rights issues today?" Share your comments below!

2014 Student Stowe Prize submissions due in one month!

Are you changing the world?  Do you know a high school or college student who is? Encourage them to submit their work for the 2014 Student Stowe Prize. Submissions are due January 10, 2014!

The Student Stowe Prize recognizes outstanding writing by United States high school and college students that is making a tangible impact on a social justice issue critical to contemporary society. Issues may include, but are not limited to: race, class and gender. Entries must have been published or publicly presented.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, appalled by the injustice of slavery, wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) as a call to action. Using print media and the familiar literary form of telling a story, she shone a harsh light on the American institution of slavery. The book became an international best seller and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.
Complementing the Harriet Beecher Stowe Prize, presented in 2011 to Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof for Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and in 2013 to Michelle Alexander for The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, the Student Stowe Prize is presented in alternating years with the Harriet Beecher Stowe Prize.
Student Stowe Prize for High School Students
The winning student will be featured at a program and award ceremony in Hartford, Connecticut, receive $1,000, and have their work published on the Stowe Center website.

Student Stowe Prize for College Students
The winning student will be featured at a program and award ceremony in Hartford, Connecticut, receive $2,500, and have their work published on the Stowe Center website.

Visit our 2014 Student Stowe page for official guidelines and rules. Entries are due January 10, 2014. 

2012 Student Stowe Prize winner Hannah Morgan with Annette Gordon Reed and Katherine Kane.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Human Trafficking Trends in the United States

The Polaris Project recently released a report "Human Trafficking Trends in the United States." The report is the result of five years of hotline phone calls, emails and online tips received through their National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) from December 2007 until December 2012.

Some of the key facts from the report include:
  • The NHTRC experienced a 259% increase in calls between 2008 and 2012.
  • In five years, we received reports of 9,298 unique cases of human trafficking.
  • The three most common forms of sex trafficking reported to the hotline involved pimp-controlled prostitution, commercial-front brothels, and escort services. Labor trafficking was most frequently reported in domestic work, restaurants, peddling rings, and sales crews.
  • 41% of sex trafficking cases and 20% of labor trafficking cases referenced U.S. citizens as victims.
  • Women were referenced as victims in 85% of sex trafficking cases, and men in 40% of labor trafficking cases.

The report is available for download HERE or below. You can also check out the resources featured in our Event Recap: How to Be an Abolitionist Workshop blog post about ways you can take action on human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela - 1918-2013

Nelson Mandela in 2007Thank you, Nelson Mandela. You words changed our world.

Each day at the Stowe Center, we are inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe and how her outrage of the injustice of her day, slavery, evolved from her indignation to a personal call to the action.  The action of writing the antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin is what changed the hearts and minds of many Americans; the impact of that action helping millions to see the inhumanity of the institution of slavery for the first time. Her words changed the world.

In like manner, as we owe this gratitude to Stowe, we say “Thank you, Nelson Mandela.”  Your words and actions changed the world.  Your perseverance and prevailing vision for a free, peaceful and just South Africa inspired the world. The urgent question as we remember your life, and mourn your death, is will the inspiration of your legacy become our inspiration to action?

Time Magazine journalist Robert Stengel, who knew Nelson Mandela, shared these words giving insight in those moments became Mr. Mandela’s call to action.
“I always thought that in a free and nonracial South Africa, Mandela would have been a small-town lawyer, content to be a local grandee. This great, historic revolutionary was in many ways a natural conservative. He did not believe in change for change’s sake. But one thing turned him into a revolutionary, and that was the pernicious system of racial oppression he experienced as a young man in Johannesburg. When people spat on him in buses, when shopkeepers turned him away, when whites treated him as if he could not read or write-- that changed him irrevocably. For deep in his bones was a basic sense of fairness: he simply could not abide injustice. If he, Nelson Mandela, the son of a chief, tall, handsome and educated, could be treated as subhuman, then what about the millions who had nothing like his advantages? “That is not right,” he would sometimes say to me about something as mundane as a plane flight’s being canceled or as large as a world leader’s policies, but that simple phrase — that is not right — underlay everything he did, everything he sacrificed for and everything he accomplished.” 

To learn more about Nelson Mandela, his actions and legacy, we recommend:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cyberbullying on the rise

Person typing on a computerWith the rise of social media and online communication, and the ever-present issue of bullying among children and adults alike, a new phenomenon of cyberbullying has arisen. Defined by www.stopbullying.gov as "bullying that takes place using electronic technology," it is especially prevalent among children who are quickly gaining access to outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

In September, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick of Winter Haven, FL jumped from the top of an abandoned concrete plant and took her own life after facing ongoing taunting and tormenting from two school mates via Facebook. A disagreement that started over a boyfriend escalated to comments like  "You should die" and "why don't you go kill yourself?" directed at Sedwick. Her suicide and the subsequent arrest of her 14- and 12-year-old school mates lead to a heightened awareness of cyberbullying especially during October, National Bullying Prevention Month. Read CNN's "Sheriff: Taunting post leads to arrests in Rebecca Sedwick bullying death" by Steve Almasy, Kim Segal and John Couwels to learn more about this tragic story.

What can be done to prevent cyberbullying? www.stopbullying.gov recommends that parents talk openly with their children about cyberbullying and what they are discussing on social media. They also advise that teens unfriend, block or report people who are posting abusive comments, and that they avoid responding. not keep bullying a secret, and document and save all examples of attacking comments. Other resources can be found at Stopbullying.gov’s Cyberbullying section Facebook's Family Safety Center

Have your children, or kids you know, experienced cyberbullying? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Champagne and Chocolate Soirée on December 5 and "shopping for a moral cause"

In the 1800’s, it was common to buy gifts and donate items to those in need, an act known as charity or “shopping for a moral cause.” Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister Catharine E. Beecher wrote about charity in their book American Woman’s Home (1869):
“It is probable that there is no form of duty whereon conscientious persons differ more in opinion, or where they find it more difficult to form discriminating and decided views, than on the matter of charity.  That we are bound to give some of our time, money, and efforts, to relieve the destitute, all allow.  But, as to how much we are to give, and on whom our charities shall be bestowed, many a reflecting mind has been at a loss.” 
Looking to make a difference for those in need this season, but concerned about all the gifts and presents to buy and other holiday spending? Then stop by the Stowe Center Museum Shop! 

This season, the Shop features special gifts whose proceeds benefit victims of human trafficking and abuse, the environment, female entrepreneurs, artisans in the developing world, and more. Products include hand bags, laptop cases, mittens, wool socks, money pouches, reusable sandwich bags, and scarves. Donna Haghighat, Founder and CEO of www.Shoptimize.org, will also have a table of items which help "shop women to the top."

To sweeten the deal, we invite you to our annual Champagne and Chocolate Soirée event tomorrow, December 5, from 6-8pm in the Stowe Visitor Center to enjoy a 20% discount on all Museum Shop items! 

Items from our table of Stowe Center mission-based products will also be on sale, and include books about social justice and empathy, "Teach Peace" bumper stickers, activist buttons, The New Jim Crow by 2013 Stowe Prize winner Michelle Alexander, and Stowe Center branded products. 

Don't miss this opportunity to "shop for a moral cause" while getting your holiday shopping done...and even save an extra 20% while enjoying champagne and delicious sweets! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sarah Palin's comparison of the federal debt to slavery

Former Alaska Governor and Vice President candidate Sarah Palin recently compared the federal debt to slavery in a speech to the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s fall fundraiser: 
“Our free stuff today is being paid for by taking money from our children and borrowing from China...When that money comes due—and this isn’t racist, but it’ll be like slavery when that note is due. We are going to beholden to the foreign master.”

What are your reactions to this comment? We're posting this quote and video clip for you to discuss openly in the Comments section below. 

For more about her comments, check out the Desmoines Register's "Palin compares federal debt to slavery at Iowa dinner" and Newsweek/The Daily Beast's "The Right’s Slavery Obsession."

Monday, December 2, 2013

New monument recognizes women in the military

Last month, in time for Veterans Day, the US Army unveiled its first statue of a female soldier as part of a Fort Lee, VA monument. While other monuments recognize the contributions of women to the military, no other portrays a female soldier. In the words of Newsweek/The Daily Beast writer Mariette Kalinowski: "The simple truth is: the military cannot function without women, and it’s becoming more and more obvious."

Why do you think it took this long to portray a female soldier? 


We applaud the women and men who have served and sacrificed for our country, and the Army for finally recognizing the contributions of female solders. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

58th anniversary of Rosa Parks' stand against segregation

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks took a bold stand against segregation by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger and move to the "colored" section at the back of the bus. Her small yet bold act of defiance is now one of the most iconic events of the Civil Rights Movement.

Embedded image permalink
Just think - a small action you take today might cause a change much larger than you can imagine. What will you do?  Be like Rosa Parks - take a stand!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month, formally observed by the United States government since the early 1990s, honors the traditions and rich ancestry of Native Americans. Each November, The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join forces to pay tribute to Native American culture. You can learn more through their collaborative online portal http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov.

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, we invited Sandra Polacheck, a Cherokee woman living in Connecticut, to be a guest blogger and share her views on being a Native American and some of the social justice issues facing First Nations Peoples today.

I have been asked many times over the years by nonnative people, "What percent Native American are you?" My answer is that I am a whole human being and I cannot exist any other way. Can half of a human being survive? Can a quarter of a human being survive? I have never thought to define myself in pieces. To ask a person to cut themselves into pieces of ethnicity is asking them to be less than human. I don't think that people who ask this question are being mean. I think racism or prejudice is unconscious and part of the human condition that we strive to overcome.

In my experience, most First Nations Peoples are concerned with issues that effect our ability to live in Right Relationship with each other and our earth. There is deep concern for the care and purity of drinkable water within Native communities. The water table has been rapidly and steadily declining on the North American Continent within the past few years. There are many examples of this. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and anthropologist Wade Davis explored the impact that the practice of damming rivers to create reservoirs have had on the water table in North America combined with draught and freshwater shortages in the movie, Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk, in 2008. The Diné or Navajo people who live in the Southwest have limited access to fresh water sources and must walk a long way to reach the closest artesian well where they can draw water for the day. There is nothing in the U. S. Constitution that states that access to freshwater is a basic right for all human beings. Most people who live in Connecticut or the North Eastern United States do not practice good water conservation. This is because there has been an abundance of fresh water in this area; however, with the pollution of the environment the water we drink is not always the healthiest choice and may not always be so readily available.

In my experience, First Nations Peoples are also concerned with the American Justice System. I have often heard Elders say that Native People lived for ten thousand years without jails. Helping individuals, especially young people to heal and return in good relationship with the community is more important than their punishment. Restorative Justice is the practice of bringing offenders, victims and the people who support both together to work out their problems in order to restore balance and harmony. The relationship between the individual and the whole is restored for the benefit of all. This is a deep concern for all of us. If we lose our youth to gang life and anger, we lose our future.

Many First Nations Peoples I have known are trying to restore their languages, cultural stories, songs, and traditions. The Hopi People began teaching their kindergarten students Hopi language in addition to English as part of their curriculum in an attempt to restore their Native language. Grandmother Snow Song, a Cherokee Elder who lives in this area, is translating her poetry into T'salagi (Cherokee) language. She uses her poems as the words for songs, which are passed on to the community. It is important to hold on to original languages because no language has a direct word for word translation into English or any other language. People think in language and original ideas are expressed by their thinking language. Imagine how many wonderful problem solving ideas could be lost to the human family if the language to think the idea is lost? This is why people should remember and honor their original language in addition to learning a new one. There are many other social justice issues I could discuss, but my heritage does not make me an expert in Social Justice issues that impact Native Culture. There were over 500 Indigenous Nations in North America at one time and they are as unique and diverse as any country or nation would be. To lump all of those nations and peoples into one category: Native Americans is in itself a social injustice.

Sandra Polacheck is a third-year Peace Keeper, studying under Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo, the 27th generation lineage holder of the ancestral Ywahoo lineage in the T'salagi/Cherokee tradition. Venerable Dhyani is the Chief of the Green Mountain Ani Yunwiwa, Eastern Band of Cherokee. She has been a land trust member of the T'salagi Peace Village in Vermont for 6 years and an Elder caregiver during the annual Gathering of Elders for 3 years. She has had the honor of serving and caring for Native Elders as well as learning from their wisdom over the course of many years. In her professional career, Ms. Polacheck is a Reading Specialist at Francis T. Maloney High School in Meriden, CT.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Inaugural meeting of the Asylum Hill Hunger Action Team

A group of concerned citizens and organizations have partnered with Foodshare to start the Asylum Hill Hunger Action Team (HAT), a group which will address the root causes of hunger in Asylum Hill. Their charge is to answer two questions: “Why are people hungry in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood?” and “What can we do together to end hunger in the Asylum Hill neighborhood?”

The inaugural meeting of the HAT will be on Monday, December 9, 2013 from 10:30am-12:00pm at Asylum Hill Congregational Church (814 Asylum Avenue, Hartford). Anyone interested in fighting hunger and working to support the hungry in Asylum Hill are invited to attend, and should RSVP to Jim Palma at jpalma@foodshare.org or 860-286-9999 x124.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What are you doing this Thanksgiving to inspire change?

Thanksgiving is a time to show our appreciation for all we are fortunate to have, and is the perfect time to demonstrate this gratefulness by helping others. What are you doing today or this season to take action? Are you using the spirit of the season to inspire a drive to create change?

We are eager to hear about what you are doing, whether its serving a warm meal, organizing a food drive, visiting a nursing home, or advocating on behalf of hungry children. We hope you will share your efforts in the "Comments" section below!

...and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours 
from your friends at the Stowe Center!