The novel and the War

Sojourner Truth loved to listen to the great preachers of her time and became a powerful one herself despite the fact that she had never been taught to read and write. Among the greatest was Lyman Beecher who railed against slavery from his Brooklyn pulpit. So passionately did he feel about abolishing slavery that he had rifles shipped to the anti-slavery forces in crates marked 'books'. These rifles came to be known as 'Beecher's Bibles.'

In her meeting with the great preacher Lyman Beecher, she expressed her authentic conviction:

““Sojourner, this is Dr. Beecher. He is a very celebrated preacher.”

Is he?” she said, offering her hand in a condescending manner and looking down on his white head, “Ye dear lamb, I’m glad to see ye!  De Lord bless ye! I loves preachers. I’m kind o’ preacher myself.”

“You are?” said Dr. Beecher. “Do you preach from the Bible?”

“No, honey, can’t preach from de Bible—can’t read a letter.”

“Why, Sojourner what do you preach from, then?”

Her answer was given with a solemn power of voice, peculiar to herself, that hushed everyone in the room.

“When I preaches, I has jest one text to preach from, an’ I always preaches from this one. My text is, ‘WHEN I FOUND JESUS!”

“Well, you couldn’t have a better one,” said one of the ministers…"

One of Rev. Beecher's talented daughters, Harriett Beecher Stowe, wrote a novel about slavery, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', soon after the death to cholera of her own young son. Though the book is not a realistic depiction of slavery--Stowe had never seen it first hand--it was the first time slaves had been humanized in a fictional work by a white author. In addition, 'Christian love'--an idea that resonated with many white churchgoing Americans--was embodied in the person of Uncle Tom. The book became the biggest selling American novel of the 19th century and helped to sway white public opinion against slavery in the Civil War years.

Click the first video for a short review of her life and importance and below that for a montage of the original illustrations in her novel's first edition:


The life and importance of Harriett Beecher Stowe

Photo montage of illustrations for the first edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin