Harriet Beecher Stow House2950 Gilbert Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45206-1545
800-847-6075; 513-751-0651 | www.stowehousecincy.org; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotbed of Freedom
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is the best place to explore the life and times of this important American voice of freedom, as well as the complexities surrounding the legacy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The home was a site on the Underground Railroad and later also served as a Black boarding house and tavern listed in the Green Book.
As a young unmarried woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) came to Cincinnati in 1832 when her father, Rev. Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), was appointed president of Lane Theological Seminary. Here, she nourished her talents in Cincinnati’s literary community and learned about the realities of slavery from living in the border region of the Ohio River Valley.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852. The tale of Tom’s journey “down river” was a sweeping epic of slavery’s human toll and profoundly transformed how Americans thought about the institution. Stowe based the main character, Tom, on Josiah Henson, a former slave and Methodist preacher who published his own memoir in 1849. Henson, who was then well known in abolitionist circles, described how Uncle Tom’s Cabin “shook the foundations of this world…. It shook the Americans out of their shoes and of their shirts.”
While Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin just after she left Cincinnati in 1850, it was her experience of life in the Queen City that made it possible. At the time, Cincinnati was a hotbed of anti- and pro-slavery fervor, and Lane Seminary was at the center of critical debates. This was because the region was a hybrid zone of two American cultures, the North and the South, where populations from Kentucky, Virginia, New England, and Pennsylvania mingled. Though Cincinnati was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the North in 1850, it was so partly because it was a banking and commercial hub for the South.
This unique cultural geography fueled the rhetorical power and urgency of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and was the rich soil from which Harriet Beecher Stowe nurtured her dramatic narrative of redemptive human suffering.
Notes for Travelers
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House features compelling interpretive exhibitions on the life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the talented Beecher family, and other Cincinnati abolitionists. Visitors to the house are encouraged to take the tour from one of the knowledgeable guides. Consider pairing your visit with a trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati. -- Robert Colby
Additional ResourcesUncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852.
"The Story of Josiah Henson, the Real Inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin"