This Day in the Law
June 5

Uncle Tom’s Cabin Published by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1851)

On June 5, 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe published the anti-slavery serial Uncle Tom’s Cabin in an abolitionist newspaper called the National Era.

As a child, Stowe witnessed slavery first-hand. In particular, Stowe lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and observed slavery in a nearby town in Kentucky just across the Ohio River. Stowe found the slaves’ lives deplorable and inhumane. Stowe’s family also took an active role in the Underground Railroad and helped many slaves escape to freedom in the North.

Stowe eventually began to write about the horrific effects of slavery that she observed. Stowe personalized and even somewhat embellished her stories to allow her readers to “feel” and “see” slavery in a new way. On June 5, 1851, Stowe’s written accounts were published in serial form in an anti-slavery newspaper called the National Era. Stowe called her serial Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

In short time, Uncle Tom’s Cabin became nationally recognized in both the North and South. The South called the serial nothing more than abolitionist propaganda but sales in the South remained strong. In 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published into a book and became an overnight best-seller, selling more than 50,000 copies in the first two months.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin made slavery a prominent national issue in America. In fact, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was so popular and influential in the minds of Americans that President Abraham Lincoln is reported to have told Stowe, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.” (i.e. referring to the American Civil War) (Source:

Today, Uncle Tom’s Cabin stands as one of the most influential literary books in American history. It has been translated into over 60 languages and will forever remain tied to the outbreak of the American Civil War and the eventual end of slavery.