Uncle Tom's Cabin: A History
"Our Homestead is Surely the Sweetest on Earth"
and he sings me his songs,
he talks ever gentle,
but never of his wrongs;
he calls me dear Missus,
he prays morn and night;
and he follows my pastimes,
with cheerful delight,
dear Uncle Tom, oh good Uncle Tom.
Sung from the point of view of Evangeline, the daughter of Tom's second master, this song shows Tom as a passive character who submits uncomplainingly to kind ownership, making Eva herself seem more unambiguously angelic and moral.
The goal as stated in the directions was to help the slave families reunite - in essence, turning the harrowing experience of slavery into a family game. It allowed players to paint themselves as upstanding saviors of helpless slaves.
This figurine portrays Tom as a father figure for little Eva, showing the more positive effects of white sympathy for blacks; despite his lower status, Tom is constantly kind to and protective of his young charge to an unrealistically saintly degree, as shown in this peaceful scene.
Children's Book Illustration
While somewhat more grounded in reality than the other examples, this illustration nevertheless depicts George Shelby, a white man, coming to the rescue of his slaves and freeing them all; once again, the black characters are deprived of the agency to save themselves.
"'Topsy', or the Slave Girl's Appeal"
Hating all with wicked hate;
Getting punish'd, roaring, crying,
That was my most wicked state. [...]
'Then Miss Eva looked so loving,
Spoke so sweetly in my ear,
Told me I was worth improving,
Said, 'I nothing had to fear.'
From the perspective of young slave Topsy, this poem once again shows the influence an angelic white savior can have on a 'wicked' black person, removing any power the black person might have to change herself.
Despite this unfortunate connotation, I was surprised to see that most of the images ultimately carried a positive and sympathetic depiction of slaves. Given how often we discuss racism and slavery in class, it was refreshing to see that many people, even before the Civil War, were willing and even eager to treat blacks as moral equals and proudly show their support for abolition.