Uncle Tom's Cabin Newsletter

Jesse Tan and Derek Ji


The novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin", by Harriet Beecher Stowe portrayed cultural interactions in the early 1850's by showing the depth of cruelty that slaves in the South experienced in a extremely negative light, and serving as emotional propaganda for Northerners who wished to eliminate slavery as an institution.
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1. The view of a young white girl on the lap of a older African American male creates a sense of the wisdom and weathered endurance of the former slave, showing that artwork could serve as Northern propaganda.
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2. The chaotic scene depicted above shows the degree of cruelty that some southerners were towards African Americans, despite the fact that many were children, as they are fleeing from a white slave owner brandishing a menacing whip.
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3. This image served to show slaves as hard workers usually subject to back-breaking tasks like picking cotton from sunrise to sundown; it serves to emphasize the inhumane aspect of slavery from a physical perspective.
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4. The following mocks the fact that many African Americans were denied the access to simple education, therefore lacking literacy in many cases by the given text: "I is so wicked". This serves to paint blacks as a subject of ridicule, and emphasizes that they were not on the same level intellectually as whites.
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5. This image contrasts the elegant clothes of the white woman with the tainted rags that the whites and African Americans wore and it also further ridicules the natural color of the slave's skin.
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6. The terrible posture presented by the elder man in the image shows that he was a man who's worked terribly hard all of his life, and his inability to take a rest from his labor shows the terrible conditions that the slaves were forced to work in, leading to repercussions later in life.

Response - Jesse Tan

The images depicting black and white individuals portrayed that whites during this time period seemed to regard themselves as almost an entirely different species than African men and women. The images showed that the idea of cultural superiority and the notion that blacks were less than human (they were reduced to being viewed as mere property in the South) was deeply ingrained within the minds of a majority of Southerners, especially from an early age. Southern advertisements and similar media usually displayed Africans in negative light, ridiculing them with exaggerated features and seemingly rude descriptions. In contrast, white children seemed to be purposefully placed next to them as a comparison, often looking angelic and innocent. As a result, it can be inferred that the visual arts were used to subtly indicate that slaves should not be viewed as human beings on the same scale as whites.

I was most surprised by the degree to which some of the depictions of African Americans were purposefully distorted in order to make them objects of ridicule and laughter. For example, in many advertisements, black were contorted in strange contortions along with absurdly large facial features. It is likely that this was used to dehumanize Africans and lessen support for the abolition movement.

Response - Derek Ji

A few subtle ideas that were shown in the collection of images include things like how African Americans were viewed as almost creatures rather than humans in the South. They also showed that there was a large difference between how advertisements and media depicted African Americans between the North and South. For example, black slaves in Southern media were often the target of deformed features and exaggerated poses, while white children were shown in a much more favorable light. This showed that there was a slave-master relationship between these two races, as the blacks were subjects of ridicule and insults, while this was quite the opposite with white men and women. Many depictions of Africans in a more favorable light, most likely from the North, often showed blacks as weathered individuals who possessed inner strength and endurance.

It was surprising how inhumane some of the advertisements depicted black individuals. There was a blatant sense of superiority on the part of the whites, and blacks were often shown to be incapable of intelligent thought, making them laughable and making light of such a serious dilemma. The idea of the slaves being the laughingstock as well as the workforce of the southerners flabbergasted me because I was unaware of the severity of many of the images I analyzed. Additionally, many of the clothes worn by the slaves were often deteriorating while the contrast to the garments of the white folk were often much more desirable.