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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rush Limbaugh's references to "Black #UncleTom Voters" in Mississippi

As primary season for the 2014 midterm elections continues, much attention has been paid to particularly contentious and close campaign races. One such race is that of the GOP primary for Senate in Mississippi. Current incumbent Thad Cochran was challenged by Tea-Party representative Chris McDaniel in a campaign that included name-calling, threats, and arrests. The election came to a head on June 24th, when Cochran defeated challenger McDaniel. Not everyone was pleased with the outcome. Ultra-conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was among those not so happy, and even brandished the dubiously rooted racial-slur “Uncle Tom” as a result.

Limbaugh called African American voters who voted for Cochran “Uncle Toms”, referencing the racial stereotype that emerged from the play and minstrel show adaptations of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s acclaimed anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The term, often levied at African Americans, refers to individuals who are “traitors” to their identity, or are weak or subservient to dominant identity groups. Stowe’s depiction of the character Uncle Tom was quite different, suggesting that Limbaugh - among many others - has probably not read the text.

The use of “Uncle Tom” is prevalent in not just politics, but in entertainment, sports and news-media. Yet, all instances represent a failed interpretation of Stowe’s novel. What are ways we can mitigate the use of this racial slur? How can we inform and educate those who have not read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? If you have read the novel, what do you think of the use of “Uncle Tom” today? Have you ever witnessed the term being used? What did you do about it? Share below!

For more on the character Uncle Tom, visit the Stowe Center for our free exhibit Who Is Uncle Tom?, which examines the evolution of Stowe’s title character from a strong, Christ-like figure to a racial slur.

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