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.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Can Artists be Activists?: HBS as an Example @MHPShow

On Saturday, political commentator and host Melissa Harris-Perry posed the question of whether artists can be effective activists. Using examples of Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, and Macklemore, Harris-Perry and guests debated the current role of musicians in social justice causes. The conversation detailed the ways in which artists are often afraid to take stances on controversial issues as they may impact album sales, audience reach, and public reception.  

 Kanye West received backlash for his criticism of President Bush and media portrayals of black Americans after Hurricane Katrina. 

As a writer, Harriet Beecher Stowe used the media of her time, newspaper publications and novels, as a way to advocate an anti-slavery position. Though she received death threats and significant criticism, her career was not ultimately impaired, as she went on to write a total of 30 books. Yet, while Stowe was an artist, she made her advocacy a central and integrated part of her work, most notably through Uncle Tom's Cabin. Today, musicians, filmmakers, writers, and actors often try to appeal to a mass majority and thus are faced with a considerable economic risk if they step out of their genre and advocate on potentially controversial topics.

Can a "mainstream" artist, one occupying space in a traditional corporate or capitalist marketplace, be a true advocate for justice? Or is it easier for an independent artist to fight for issues of equality? Commentators on Harris-Perry's show described how early hip-hop music, often underground and independent to start, was built on fighting for racial justice and equality. Do certain genres of entertainment lend more easily to activism? What other artists are advocating for justice? Let us know!

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