What does it mean for a human being to be free? Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one woman’s attempt to answer this question. Harriet Beecher Stowe, like others before and after her, points out that human freedom is not purely a question of emancipation. Maybe nobody owns you, but that does not make you free – though it is a necessary starting point.
Looking at the history of African-Americans and other people of color in the United States, it is possible to see a series of "emancipatory" moments intending to promote freedom, beginning with the of slavery and continuing with the passage of the of 1964, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of skin color. Yet, despite laws against slavery and certain guarantees against discrimination, and despite the fact that we do now have a democracy where all members of society can vote, has the United States "arrived" in terms of freedom? At what point can we say we are "free"? Is anybody ever "free"?
It is unlikely that we will ever have a single answer to the question, "What does it mean to be free?" We can pretty much promise that the nation will continue to struggle over these issues. Nevertheless, we do make progress every once in awhile, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an example of that.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin played an extraordinary role in transforming race relations in the United States. It fed currents of change that were already flowing throughout the country and crystallized the sense that something was wrong with American society. The book's popularity in the North and unpopularity in the South meant that people everywhere were talking about the ideas found in it: that slavery was an institution that corrupted those who participated in it (voluntarily or involuntarily), that the North still had to deal with its racial prejudice, and that "emancipation" was not just a question of freeing slaves, but also of integrating them into society.
These are ideas still discussed today. Although Uncle Tom’s Cabin was most effective and popular at the time it was published, it still plays a role in American life and culture today, reminding us not only of the price of freedom, but the necessity that all humans must be free (morally, economically, and racially).
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. "Chapter 20: Uncle Tom Finds Freedom." Uncle Tom's Cabin Told to the Children. Lit2Go Edition. 1852. Web. >. March 10, 2018.
A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin - Wikipedia
Stowe, H. (1852). Chapter 20: Uncle Tom Finds Freedom. Uncle Tom's Cabin Told to the Children (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved March 10, 2018, from