How is Uncle Tom's Cabin still relevant today?

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Uncle Tom's Cabin is no piece of evidence or historical artifact.  If all slave owners were typical of Simon Legree, slavery would not be profitable since most of the slaves would be incapable of working after such horrible beatings.  Rather, it was written more as propaganda by Harriet Beecher Stowe, an active abolitionist, exciting people against slavery with the heinous character of Simon Legree. Much like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, its intent was to reform conditions.  And, it did.  Uncle Tom's Cabin is credited with helping to fuel the abolitionist cause of the 1850s.

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Note also how "Uncle Tom" is used today as an insult and racial slur. I think that many people using it have no memory of what the phrase actually means or how it was used or even the character it is based on. We need the book not only as a cultural artifact (regardless of modern relevance) but as a reminder that words have meaning, and to use them without knowledge is as bad as suppressing them altogether.

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