Lesson 8: After Slavery: Stowe's Vision
Even though slavery as an institution was never abolished within Stowe's novel, readers
can see glimpses of Stowe's beliefs about emancipation from those characters in the
novel who do achieve freedom: Shelby's slaves, George Harris and his family, and
Topsy. The stories of these freed characters raise an interesting and difficult question:
even though Stowe wrote a passionate anti-slavery novel, to what extent could she
actually imagine emancipation?
This lesson asks students to explore and evaluate Stowe's vision for a post-slavery
America. Paired with selections from the novel are selections from the writings and
illustrations of Stowe's contemporaries in the 1850s – book reviewers and illustrators
who, like Stowe, had their reservations about emancipation. (Teachers will want to remind students that slavery wasn't abolished until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, and neither Stowe nor her readers knew that the Civil War was coming or that slavery would soon end. To them, slavery was still a fact of American life, and they did not know when emancipation would happen or what results it would bring.)
This lesson may stand alone, but it also provides an excellent introduction for Lesson 9: After Slavery: Uncle Tom's Cabin in Popular Culture.
- Section of Novel
- This lesson uses excerpts from Chapter XXVIII: "Reunion"; Chapter XLIII: "Results"; Chapter XLIV: "The Liberator"; and Chapter XLV: "Concluding Remarks." Students need not have read these chapters ahead of time; the necessary excerpts from these chapters are provided in the Materials list below.
Length of Lesson : 1-2 days
- Materials Needed
- (Students have access to these same printable materials in Lesson 8 of the Student Site.)
- Lesson 8 Worksheet: The Question of Emancipation
- Excerpts from Uncle Tom's Cabin
- from Chapter XXVIII: "Reunion" (St. Clare and Ophelia)
- from Chapter XLIII: "Results" (George Harris)
- from Chapter XLIII: "Results" (Topsy)
- from Chapter XLIV: "The Liberator" (Shelby's slaves)
- from Chapter XLV: "Concluding Remarks" (narrator's concluding remarks)
- Excerpts from American Reviews of the novel
- from The Western Journal and Civilian Review (St. Louis, Missouri)
- from The North American Review (Boston, Massachusetts)
- Background information on the American Colonization Society:
- Go to PBS's Africans in America website. Click "Enter." Click on "Brotherly Love: 1791-1831," and then "Resource Bank." From here, scroll down to "IV. Colonization, A. People and Events." Click on "American Colonization Society." This provides students with an overview of the American Colonization Society and the creation of Liberia, which many antebellum Americans saw as a remedy to the dilemma of slavery versus emancipation.
- Final illustration from the 1853 Illustrated Edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin
- (For more illustrations from this edition, see the Illustrated Edition in the Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture website.
Skills Focus -- based on Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOLs)
- History and Social Science:
- VUS.6 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the major events during the first half
of the nineteenth century by
c) describing the cultural, economic, and political issues that divided the nation,
including slavery, the abolitionist and women's suffrage movements, and the role
of the states in the Union.
- 11th Grade English
- 11.3 The Student will read and analyze relationships among American literature,
history, and culture.
* Describe how use of context and language structures conveys an author's point of
view in contemporary and historical essays, speeches, and critical reviews.
Part 1: Fears about Emancipation
- Have the following two questions on the board as students enter the
classroom: Why was emancipation frightening to white Americans in the
1850s? What did Stowe think about emancipation? (Teachers will want to
remind students that slavery wasn't abolished until the ratification of the 13th
Amendment in 1865, and neither Stowe nor her readers knew that the Civil
War was coming or that slavery would soon end. To them, slavery was still a
fact of American life, and they did not know when emancipation would
happen or what results it would bring.)
- This first portion of the lesson focuses on the first question (Why was
emancipation frightening to white Americans in the 1850s?). Students will
examine a conversation between two of Stowe's white characters as well as
two excerpts from reviews of Uncle Tom's Cabin that express fears about
- Give each student a Lesson 8 Worksheet, the
excerpt from Chapter XXVIII,
and ONE of the two excerpts from book reviews -- either the Western Journal and Civilian Review or the North American Review. Give ½ the class the first
review, and ½ the second. Individually or in small groups, have students fill
out the Lesson 8 worksheet by closely reading the novel excerpt and the book
- When students have completed this portion of the lesson, discuss their
findings as a class. What fears about emancipating are expressed? What fears
about NOT emancipating are expressed? Discuss the fact that this excerpt
from the novel includes a discussion between a Northerner and a Southerner.
The two reviews also include the viewpoint of a Southerner (from the slave
state of Missouri) and that of a Northerner (from the free state of
Massachusetts). How do students explain the fact that both Northerners and
Southerners were fearful about emancipation? Were there differences of
opinion? Between whom?
Note : Teachers may want to have students continue adding to their worksheets for
the remainder of the lesson. The worksheets will then aid them in this
lesson's final journal assignment.
Part 2: Visions of Emancipation
- As the previous night's homework or in class, have students read about the American Colonization Society, the organization that worked with the U.S. government to create the colony of Liberia. One source of information on this is PBS's Africans in America website. (Click "Enter." Click on "Brotherly Love: 1791-1831," and then "Resource Bank." From here, scroll down to "IV. Colonization, A. People and Events." Click on "American Colonization Society.") Students will
need to have a basic understanding about the founding of Liberia in order to
evaluate Stowe's conclusion to the stories of George Harris and of Topsy.
- After reviewing students' findings about the American Colonization Society, view
and discuss the final illustration from the 1853 Illustrated Edition of Uncle Tom's
Cabin. (For other illustrations from the edition, see the Illustrated Edition in the Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture website). As Uncle Tom's Cabin and
American Culture website creator Stephen Railton writes,
"The last illustration by Billings for the 1853 edition is one I recommend as a way to
focus students' attention of the place African Americans finally occupy in
Stowe's text; this picture depicts a scene that is not actually in the story,
and one that, by putting a chain of mountains somehow between America and
Africa, depicts a world that does not exist anywhere -- except in the majority
culture's mind, which responded powerfully to the fantasy of a black exodus
displayed in this image."
- Tell students that the Billings illustration was an expression of the illustrator's
desires, not necessarily Stowe's. However, Stowe does express her vision of
emancipation through the stories of the characters that achieve freedom in her
novel. The remainder of this lesson focuses on these characters and their stories.
- Break students into small groups. Distribute one of the novel's excerpts (George's story from Chapter XLIII, Topsy's story from Chapter XLIII, or the Shelby slaves' story in Chapter XLIV) to each
group. (Don't assign the excerpt from Chapter XLV: Concluding Remarks. This
will be used later.) Have each group read its assigned excerpt.
- After each group has read its assigned excerpt, have the groups present their
excerpts to the class. Depending on the time allotted, teachers may ask students
to simply present a summary of their excerpt. Teachers might also consider
having students perform their excerpts as brief skits. One way to structure this is
by using "freeze frames":
Freeze frames : Freeze frames help students identify and present key moments in
a narrative in a more structured way than a skit.
- Have each group select 3-5 key moments from its excerpt.
- Next, students should plan a brief (5-10 second) tableau in which they will
act out each key moment. The tableau can be compared to an illustration
in that there is little to no action -- instead, the position of the characters,
along with a brief line of dialogue or monologue, presents the key
moment. Each group's presentation will consist of tableaus of these 3-5
- Have groups present their key moments to the class. At the end of each
key moment (or "frame"), one of the actors should say, "stop." The group
should then immediately begin their next tableau. The freeze-frame
presentations can be made even more dramatic if the audience members
are asked to close their eyes between frames.
- After students have presented their excerpts, discuss the way Stowe presents
emancipation based on the characters that achieve freedom. According to Stowe,
what should or might happen if slaves are freed? Are there alternatives to these
characters' stories that Stowe doesn't consider (such as full American citizenship
for African Americans)?
- Concluding Activity (in class or as homework): Read together (or have students
read individually) the excerpt from the final chapter entitled Concluding Remarks.
In this excerpt, Stowe's narrator directly addresses her readers about the question
of emancipation. After reading this excerpt, have students answer the following
question in their reading journals:
Does Stowe present a consistent vision of a post-slavery America? If so, what is
it? If not, where are the inconsistencies?