This historical home dates back to 1833 and was once owned by Dr. Lyman-Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father. She lived in the house for two years before marrying. The house now serves as the Center for African-American History Preservation. The house also includes information pertaining to the Beecher-Stowe family and the Lane Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary where Dr. Lyman Beecher served as president. Exhibits also focus on race equality movements, such as the Underground Railroad and the Civil Rights Movement, from different points in history.
Harriet Beecher-Stowe, the famed author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, came from a family of human and civil rights activists. Harriet’s sister, Catherine Beecher, was an educator and writer and was instrumental in founding a number of high schools and colleges for women. Her brother, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, was an esteemed minister and leader in the women’s suffrage movement. Her other sister, Isabella Beech Hooker, was a women’s rights activist. General James Beecher, a Civil War General known for being the first to command African-American troops for the Union, was also a member of this esteemed family.
The novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, while fiction, is a story of the very real pain, suffering, and general indecency of slavery. It was published right after Congress enacted harsh fugitive slave laws in 1850. The story goes that Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write the book after a vision of a dying slave came to her during communion. The book was first published in serialized form in the National Era in June of 1951.
The book became an important part of the nation’s social consciousness around this time. It was believed by some, including Abraham Lincoln himself, that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a major driving force behind the fight to end slavery. Upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862, Lincoln is believed to have said, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!” Although this may have been too grandiose a statement, it is not unreasonable to say that the sentiment expressed in Uncle Tom’s Cabin wove itself into the social fabric and tensions of the time and was thus influential during this pivotal point in American history.