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 30, 2014

Top Ten Social Justice #Trends of 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, we are greeted once again by a continuous cycle of rankings and end of the year lists. And as this year was one characterized by political strife, failures of justice, and active protest, this following list recounts the top social justice trends of the past 12 months. 

10. #Notbuyingit 

Created by The Representation Project, an organization devoted to combating gender stereotypes in the media, #Notbuyingit takes aim at sexist commercial advertisements. Though used throughout the year, the hashtag gained prominence during the Super Bowl, where viewers would “live tweet” moments of misogyny or degradation during commercial breaks. 

9. #CrimingWhileWhite 

After a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Pantaleo over the death of unarmed Eric Garner, activists and onlookers took to Twitter to express anger, grief, and action steps. Emerged from this Twitter discussion was #crimingwhilewhite, a hashtag initiated to highlight the privileges white individuals are granted while interacting with law enforcement officials. Examples included: "I shoplifted when I was 14 and they let me go because my parents came down and we "looked like a nice family."" #crimingwhilewhite. "Arrested for stealing street signs Xmas Eve back in high school. Probation waived as it would interfere with DRAMA CLUB." #crimingwhilewhite. 

8. #ALSIcebucketchallenge 

Taking summer 2014 by storm, the #ALSIcebucketchallenge, featured friends daring friends to donate money to ALS research or dump a bucket of cold water over their heads (or both). The challenge raised an unprecedented $115 million for the ALS Association and unintentionally triggered discussions on the efficacy of social media charity campaigns and online activism. 

7. #raisethewage 

The fight to raise the minimum wage went mainstream this year, as fast-food workers, retail employees, and even President Obama took action to raise state and federal minimum wage laws. Workers took to the streets to #fightfor15 and protest unjust labor practices. 


6. #Bringbackourgirls 

On April 15th, militant group Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 girls from their school in Nigeria. Political officials were slow to respond, motivating Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi to create #bringbackourgirls, a campaign designed to bring widespread awareness to the kidnappings. The declaration went viral, and soon everyone from celebrities to President and First Lady Obama began offering their support to bring Boko Haram to justice.       

5. #Carrythatweight 

In the spring of 2013, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz reported to school authorities that she was raped by a male student. The claims were brought forth through the University’s adjudication process, and after a long and degrading investigation, the alleged rapist was deemed not responsible and allowed to remain on campus. To protest the University’s response to her case, Sulkowicz began Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight, a visual arts piece in which she vowed to carry a dorm-room mattress everywhere she traveled on campus. On October 29th, 2014, the project expanded, as thousands of students across the country carried mattresses or pillows on their campuses to stand in solidarity with Sulkowicz and take aim at unjust university processes. #Carrythatweight served as an anchor to the movement, working to galvanize support and awareness over the issue of rape on college campuses. 

4. #AllMenCan 

The beginning of summer 2014 was marked by the horrific murder of seven individuals in Santa Barbara, CA. The tragedy evoked conversation on gun-control, mental illness, and male entitlement, as the suspect was linked to both a YouTube video and written report detailing his desires to terminate women who had rejected his advances. From these discussion spurred two popular hashtags-one of which focused on the role men can play in advancing equality for women. 

3. #ICantBreathe/#WeCantBreathe 

The death of Eric Garner at the hands of Officer Pantaleo was made even more shocking by the accompanying video in which Garner repeatedly screamed "I can't breathe."  #ICantBreathe/#WeCantBreathe thus served as a rallying cry for black Americans to draw awareness to discriminatory policing practices.

2. #YesAllWomen

The second hashtag that emerged from the events in Santa Barbara was #YesAllWomen, a trend in which girls and women shared experiences of sexism, misogyny, and gender-based violence over social media. The hashtag served to emphasize that even though "not all men" engage in sexist behavior, all women at some point in their lives experience harassment, fear, or inequality on the basis of gender identity.   

1. #BlackLivesMatter 

The lasting memory of 2014 will undoubtedly be on the death of unarmed black individuals at the hands of law enforcement and the subsequent demand to enact fair and equitable policing and justice practices. After the death of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, John Crawford, and the numerous other black men killed every 28 hours by police officers or vigilantes, individuals took to the streets, social media sites, and city halls to declare, even in a country that profiles and discriminates against people of color, that black lives do indeed matter.  

As social media hashtags, these trends originated and largely remained in the electronic world. In what ways then, does so-called "hashtag activism" help social justice causes? Did these trends contribute to the overall progress of social movements in 2014? Do you have any other hashtags to add to the list? Let us know!

Monday, December 29, 2014

"Have you ever board?" at #StoweCenter

In order to further engage with visitors on contemporary issues of justice, our Visitor Center features interactive displays and exhibits on matters of racial, gender, and socio-economic identity. One of these displays is the "Have you ever?" board, a feature that invites visitors to share experiences of stereotyping, profiling, prejudice, and discrimination.

Today, several new questions were added to the board including:

Have you ever....

- Confronted a prejudice of your own?

- Noticed yourself acting differently around someone with a different ethnic, religious, gender, or socio-economic background?

- Felt biased against someone whose social identity was different from your own? 

How would you answer these questions? What can we learn from our answers? Share below in the comments and your remarks may be shared (anonymously) in the Stowe Visitor Center!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Students Standing Up for #Justice in #2014

HuffPostEducation devised a list of five examples of students standing up for social and political causes in 2014.  

The list includes:

1. Demonstrations for Michael Brown

2. Protests to support Union-protection and health care for Philadelphia teachers

3. Campaigns to demand sexual assault reform at Norman High School in Norman, OK

4. Boycotts over standardized tests in Boulder, CO

5. Protests over "whitewashing" and simplifying history in Denver, CO

2014 was a year characterized by political strife, but also by public protest and activism, especially by young people. In June, the Stowe Center honored two young activists, Madeline Sachs and Donya Nasser, for the Student Stowe Prize, an award given to one high-school and one college student for excellence in writing to advance social justice.    

What is the role of students in greater social, political, and cultural causes? What capital and power can students leverage to enact change? Do you know of any students advocating for change? Let us know!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The #NewJimCrow: 2014 Stats on Mass Incarceration in the U.S.

The Southern Poverty Law Center complied a set of 18 info-graphics detailing the most startling and important facts on mass incarceration in the United States. The facts were derived from two reports- "The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences" by the National Academy of Sciences (2014) and "Prisoners in 2013," by the U.S. Department of Justice (2014).

The info-graphics detail the following statistics among others:

-2.2. million: The number of individuals incarcerated in the U.S.

-African Americans are incarcerated at 6 times the rate of white individuals

-Black males aged 18 to 19 are 9 times more likely to be arrested than their white peers

-Though black and white individuals engage in drug use at roughly the same rate, black individuals are 3 to 5 times more likely to be arrested

-49,100: The number of individuals incarcerated for minor drug offenses

-About 3% of all U.S. children have incarcerated fathers

Which facts surprised you? Why? Do you think society at large is aware of these statistics and the high rate of incarceration in the U.S.? How does mass incarceration impact other social institutions like housing, education, and health care?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#IllRideWithYou Goes Viral Amid Sydney Hostage Crisis

In a week highlighted by terror attacks in Sydney and Pakistan that left numerous unarmed civilians and children dead, a small piece of solace emerged on Twitter. After an unarmed gunman stormed a cafe in the city center of Sydney, Australia and raised an Islamic flag in the shop's window, many members of Australia's Muslim population feared retribution toward their community. Yet, these fears may have been assuaged, as Australians quickly reacted with "I'll Ride With You," a Twitter hashtag aimed at letting individuals identifying as Muslim know that they have committed allies when riding on public transportation. The hashtag erupted and for several hours remained as the number one global trend.    

What do you think of the power of the hashtag? Can a tweet like "I'll Ride With You" combat Islamophobia? Can social media activism procure more equitable and just communities? Does empathy on the screen translate to the empathy off the screen?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Socially Conscious Gifts for a More #Just World

Still have some last minute holiday shopping to do? Check out New York Times journalist and Stowe Prize winner Nick Kristof's "Gifts that Reflect the Spirit of the Season." In the piece, Kristof highlights creative organizations working to reduce poverty, empower marginalized individuals, or improve education around the globe.     

Through the gift-giving guide, Kristof draws attention lesser-known organizations like Reach Out and Read, a program that partners with medical professionals to encourage early-childhood literacy. 

 What do you think of Kristof's suggestions? While the holiday season is a ripe time for giving, as seen by campaigns such as #GivingTuesday, how can we spread this charitable spirit throughout the year? 

Looking for ways to teach about #Ferguson? Check out #FergusonSyllabus

Since the death of Michael Brown in August, teachers, parents, and community organizers have been searching for ways to best educate young people about difficult issues of race, profiling, and police violence. From this challenge, emerged #FergusonSyllabus, a Twitter hashtag used to collect books and articles that dictate creative and accessible lessons on race. Georgetown University Professor Marcia Chatelain created the hashtag as a way to facilitate conversation among educators on ways to teach on the events in Ferguson and larger issues of discrimination and brutality. The hashtag gained traction and soon elicited direct action through the creation of #FergusonFreedomLibrary, a social media call encouraging teachers, students, and activists to donate applicable books to prisons, schools, or community organizations. Of the hashtag, Professor Chatelain writes "A hashtag cannot address structural mistrust, public negligence, poverty and unemployment. But the incredible educators who have shared their resources and ideas with #FergusonSyllabus do have the power to move us closer to reconciliation, a greater commitment of justice and conversations that are long overdue."

What do you think of #FergusonSyllabus and the use of Twitter to engage teachers and students? Does it work? In the new Stowe House experience, we seek to facilitate conversations on difficult subjects by using primary source documents, inquiry-based dialogue, and multimedia presentations.  What do you think are the best tactics to invite conversation and questioning on difficult subjects?    

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Learn About the Young Women of Color who Planned #MillionsMarchNYC

One of the largest protests in response to the grand jury decisions over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, took place on Saturday, and was organized by two millennials- Synead Nichols (23) and Umaara lynnas Elliott (19). Millions March NYC, an act of protest and resistance, drew nearly 50,000 people of all different ethnicities, genders, ages, and backgrounds, under the objective of demanding justice for victims of color of police violence.

                   #MillionsMarchNYC  (photo credit: Instagram)
In addition to the march, the leaders compiled a list of demands of which they were seeking through their organized action. The first of these demands reads "We Want an End to all Forms of Discrimination and the Full Recognition of Our Human Rights."  

Of the march Nichols stated, “Together we peacefully demonstrated that NYC, and people in cities across the country, will not stand for a police system that shoots to kill with no accountability. This is only the beginning.”

Did you hear of the #MillionsMarchNYC? As this "is only the beginning" what do you think are the next steps? 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Confronting the Racist History of the North

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Professor Jason Sokol unearths the muddled and often overlooked history of race and racism in the North. "The Unreconstructed North" juxtaposes Southern racial history, of which there is a clear and identifiable discourse, against the seemingly non-racialized history of the North. 

Map of U.S. States during Civil War 

Southern history, as Sokol describes, is impossible to face without acknowledging Jim Crow, slavery, and the post-war reconstruction period. Yet, this same introspection and critique is never applied to the history of the North, a history that includes school segregation, race riots, open discrimination both by law and by fact, and evident most recently with the death of Eric Garner, bouts of police brutality.

To continually ignore the realities of race in the North, is to not only offer a misguided view of history, but to perpetuate the unnecessary and unproductive North/South socio-political dichotomy. Since the days of the first colonizers, the South has always occupied a unique cultural and political space- one that has often drastically differed from the identity of the North. In many ways this divide has deepened since the Civil War- just this week for example, all Democratic Senate seats were expelled from the region, making the South entirely Republican represented, while the North remains connected to the Democratic party. 

How can we properly address Northern history? How do we confront the ways in which the North was complicit in slavery and thus in the residual structural inequities that slavery procured? Will confronting American history from a holistic view instead of a geographic view, help mitigate the division between North and South?     


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Little Free Library Movement

Looking for some positivity to start off the week? Check out young Madison exclaim her love for books as she promotes the "little free library," a community movement designed to increase access to reading materials and promote a love of literacy. The "little free library" is exactly as its name suggests- a network of small containers scattered across the globe that hold books, magazines, and articles for neighbors and community members to share. The libraries exist by the "take a book, return a book" method, much like a traditional library. 

It's hard not to share enthusiasm for the "little free library" after listening to Madison's exuberant monologue. "What would the world be like without books?" Madison so passionately questions towards the end of her speech. Hopefully, with campaigns like the "little free library," no one will have to find out. 

Beyond increasing access to books, are there any other social, political, or economic benefits to the "little free library"? Can other services follow a similar model? What about "little free art galleries" or "little free museums" or even "little free legal clinics?" 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

5 Ways to be an #Ally to a Community You're Not a Part Of

On November 24th, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Roughly a week later, a Staten Island grand jury announced that Officer Daniel Pantaleo would not be indicted for the killing of unarmed Eric Garner. The decisions prompted protests across the country-from St. Louis to New York City to Los Angeles and New Haven. These mass protests have been characterized by their diversity; they have included individuals of all different ethnicities, races, gender identities, and sexualities, fighting for a common cause-increased accountability for police officers and a reformation of the criminal justice system. Yet, is it possible for an individual who is not a member of a marginalized group to stand in true solidarity with those that are? 

In the video below, vlogger Franchesca Ramsey details ways in which individuals can work to be effective allies to members of marginalized communities.  

Ramsey's 5 tips for being an ally: 
1. Understand your privilege.
2. Listen and do your homework.
3. Speak up, not over.
4. You'll make mistakes, apologize when you do.
5. Ally is a verb -- saying you're an ally is not enough.

How are you an ally? What are ways we can improve recognizing our own biases and privileges? What is the best way to create a diverse coalition of activists to stand-up against injustices?  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fighting for an Inclusive Democracy with International Day of Persons with Disabilities #IDPD

As sanctioned by the United Nations General Assembly ruling 47/3, December 3rd serves as the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities. With an estimated one billion individuals living with a disability, the day serves the purpose of honoring individuals with disabilities and recognizing the need for greater awareness and action on issues of accessibility and equality.


Threaded in the history of the Disability Rights Movement, is the fight to gain access and protection from established social institutions that so readily serve able-bodied individuals. Like many other marginalized communities, whether it be racial, gender, or sexual minorities, individuals with disabilities have long fought to gain equal benefit from the health care, education, and criminal justice systems that characterize our democracy.  

The history of the Disability Rights Movement is often not explored in classroom contexts. Why not? How does it connect with other civil and social rights movements? When we think of contemporary events, like the failure to indict the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, how do we hold the failed institutions at the base of these issues accountable? Specifically, how do we hold institutions accountable for serving individuals who are not able-bodied?    

For further reading, check out the Zinn Education Project's list of teacher resources designed to engage students on the history of individuals with disabilities. And if you are an able-bodied individual, try thinking about the services and institutions you would not be able to access-whether physical, like gaining immediate entry into a multi-floor office, or political-like seeing individuals that look like you in government, if you were not able-bodied.   

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


While Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become ingrained in consumerist lexicon, Giving Tuesday, a recent addition to the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Holiday shopping schedule, serves as a day to encourage giving across the globe.  Giving Tuesday asks individuals to not just contribute monetarily, but to also donate time, services, and ideas to national and global causes as well.    

Looking for ways to take part? Blog site Gawker, compiled a list of charities most effective at helping the word's most vulnerable.  The Guardian created a list of ways to get involved on Giving Tuesday that don't require fiscal contributions. 

While ostensibly good, Giving Tuesday has drawn slight criticism for its inclusion of large for-profit corporate entities, who while promoting charity, do so under the guise of their own company brand and marketing platform. Companies like Macy's, CVS, and Paul Mitchell all promoted Giving Tuesday, but through asking patrons to re-tweet their logo. thus serving as another marketing tactic.    
What are you doing in honor of #GivingTuesday? Are there ways to encourage giving without promoting corporate entities? What compels individuals to give money, time, or service? How can we spread these actions throughout the year?  

Monday, December 1, 2014


Beginning in 1987, December 1st has marked World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness on the AIDS pandemic and honor those who have been lost to the disease. Activists around the globe have used World AIDS Day as a launching point for advocacy campaigns, policy proposals, and public demonstrations all as an effort to mitigate the spread and find a cure for the disease that has taken 35 million people.

NBC compiled a gallery of photos and articles detailing World AIDS Day events across the globe.

                The red ribbon serves as a symbolic representation for the fight against AIDS
What are the benefits of large scale awareness events such as World AIDS Day? Do you think these events are able to successfully spread their campaigns throughout the year? Do they run the risk of concentrating too much attention on one day?