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, June 24, 2015

The #ConfederateFlag and the Power of Symbols

As a museum, the Stowe Center is continuously engaged in the process of interpreting historical objects and symbols. These objects and symbols are more than material entities; they tell stories about the past and lend insights into the cultural, political, and social climate of the period in which they appeared.    

The recent killing of nine individuals in Emmanuel A.M.E. Church by in Charleston, South Carolina ignited a discussion over whether the Confederate Flag, a long-kept symbol of the antebellum period and slavery-defined south, should still fly in public. Proponents of the initiative to take down the flag argue that though it is a symbol, it is one that holds tangible power in spreading ideas of exclusion and discrimination and implying that the ideals of the Confederacy are acceptable.

State workers in Alabama take down a Confederate Flag after orders from the Governor. 

Beyond the Confederate Flag, countless other objects and symbols of history dictate complicated narratives and ideologies.  After the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, merchandise was created that depicted Uncle Tom both as Stowe intended and then as a subordinate, weak enslaved man. These caricatures contributed to the creation of the pejorative "Uncle Tom" and served as symbolic support for the continued subjugation of black individuals during reconstruction and Jim Crow. Today, these objects serve as a reminder of the continued use of the slur "Uncle Tom" and the connection between the political climate of the 19th century and today.        

What cultural, political, or social power do symbols like the Confederate flag have? Can the removal of the Confederate Flag contribute to larger cultural or political change? How? 

Are you interested in talking more about Charleston? Attend the first Stowe Salon at Lunch on July 1st! Every Wednesday from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm in the Stowe Center Visitor Center, we'll be engaged in a discussion on the pressing issues of the week. Bring your lunch and join us!

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