Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a Text of Non-Violence and Civil Disobedience


Recognized as a great anti-slavery narrative, Harriet Beecher Stowe's 19th century novel Uncle Tom's Cabin is often seen as more of a historical document today. Yet the way several of Stowe's characters such as Mrs. Bird, Ophelia, and Uncle Tom himself confront the issues of slavery (or fail to) prophetically mirrors the positions of non-violence and civil disobedience that Martin Luther King Jr. outlined in his 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Thus the vehement, anti-slavery position of Mrs. Bird (whose husband initially supports slavery)echoes a position of civil disobedience where one has the moral right to disobey unjust laws that deny human dignity. In Miss Ophelia, a teacher from the North, (and who opposes slavery) her emphasis on training and religious conversion for slaves marks her more like the sympathetic but over-cautious clergy that supported King's position on civil disobedience but were afraid to act on it. And in the character of Uncle Tom himself, he is almost like a prototype of a protestor confronting social injustice through the means of non-violence and also a tactic that King outlined known as "creative suffering."

Author Information
Kenneth Ronald DiMaggio, Capital Community College, USA

Paper Information
Conference: IICAHDubai2016
Stream: Humanities - Literature/Literary Studies*

This paper is part of the IICAHDubai2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon