How does Uncle Tom's Cabin play an important role in history?
Boy, did it ever! Robert Levine writes about the various vehement responses to the novel in his article, "Uncle Tom's Cabin in Frederick Douglass' Paper: An Analysis of Reception."
Levine says that free Northern blacks were "outraged and desparing over th adoption of the Compromise of 1850's Fugitive Slave Law" (72). They regarded it "as a godsend destined to mobilize white sentiment against slavery just when resistance to the southern forces was urgently needed" (72).
Frederick Douglass, the great civil rights leader, regarded the novel as elevating the cause and importance of literacy (78).
The impact of the novel at the time was undeniably powerful. It is said that upon meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln remarked, "So you're the little woman who started this great war!"
The post-civil war era did not look so favorably on the novel. Chief among the complaints was the fact that a well-to-do white woman was writing about the lives of African-Americans. Others found some of the melodrama off-putting. Still more found, and continue to find, Tom's character to be an example of horrific submission.
Like it or hate it, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has had an undeniable influence on the course of our history.