National Museum of African American History and Culture
15th St. and Constitution Avenue, NW
2nd Floor, Explore More! Gallery Floor Plan
There are varying opinions about the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, yet it is inarguably one of the most influential books in American history. Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) to inform readers of the appalling realities of American slavery, it was first published in March 1852. The novel quickly became an international bestseller, second only in sales at that time to the Bible.
The exhibit shows the early and notable editions of the novel in the library’s collection, as well as its interesting publishing history. First published by John P. Jewett & Company, it changed ownership among U.S. publishers at least four times before the copyright expired in 1893. Each publisher also attempted to capitalize on its popularity by publishing new and “special” editions, where new elements, illustrations, and commentary were added. As a result, the novel was a bestseller for well over 30 years after it was first published and has continued to inspire numerous other publications and works of art.