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This is a very effective narrative, written by a white Northern Christian woman for white Northern Christian women, and pushing all the buttons - the slaves are devout, their owners are not; the system operates to break up slave families at the behest of the law; parents helplessly watch their daughters being debauched by their owners. These days of course the central moral point is redundant but the outrage remains fresh.

I was surprised to find it actually quite a subversive novel in terms of gender. Women could not vote, and the male constitutional order is found morally wanting by them - Chapter 9, where a Northern state politician, who has just voted to enact a fugitive slave bill, is then forced to shelter the fleeing Eliza and Henry by his wife, has the excellent title "In Which it Appears that a Senator is but a Man".

Poor Tom is a rather two-dimensional character in the end, but he is not the only one. There are better slavery narratives out there (thinking of Frederick Douglass in the first person and Fanny Kemble in the third) but I can fully see why this was such an effective book in its day.

Latest Month

November 2022



  • nwhyte
    29 Oct 2022, 16:28
    Now I know that "psephologist" is a word.
  • nwhyte
    9 Sep 2022, 11:19
    That would make things less awkward.
  • nwhyte
    9 Sep 2022, 05:02
    Long after!
  • nwhyte
    8 Sep 2022, 17:37
    Were your 5X great-grandparents related at the time, or did their descendants get together after the duel?
  • nwhyte
    22 Aug 2022, 11:53
    I wonder why they attacked the guards instead of just claiming they were making a TikTok video or something. Having weapons on their person just makes it obvious they were spying.
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