Woman Against Slavery Critical Context - Essay

John Anthony Scott

Critical Context

This biography was written and published little more than a decade after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been signed into law. Scott had participated in the movement for civil rights, having worked for school integration and having been an organizer of demonstration marches in New York and Washington, D.C. An eminent historian and professor of both European and American history, he authored and edited numerous works having to do with Africans as slaves in the United States. His motivation to write the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe came, no doubt, from personal commitment and experience.

The author’s motive is clear: to set straight the distorted record of the fictional Uncle Tom as immortalized by Harriet Beecher Stowe and to tell Stowe’s own story so that young adults can know of the enormous impact she had in the nineteenth century. This is perhaps the most modern biography of Stowe; it may be the only one that covers her entire life, and it is probably the only one written especially for young people.

The facts of Stowe’s life are certainly presented by Scott; he also reports at length on the debates and arguments of the period. He provides the historic background for, and summarizes for the reader, Stowe’s most famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Scott thoughtfully examines Stowe’s life and work, and his book does a worthy job of filling a gap in the literature for young people.