BBC Radio 4 recently came to Brunswick to visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe house and interview Tess Chakkalakal, associate professor of Africana Studies and English, about the lasting impacts of Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Chakkalakal’s comments were featured as part of the radio program “The Legacy of Uncle Tom,” which aired on Nov. 25.
“One thing that Stowe wasn’t, was ambivalent about slavery,” Chakkalakal said. “She knew it was wrong; and really the reason for the novel … was to speak out against the fugitive slave law” — that is, the law that prohibited northerners from harboring escaped slaves. Stowe herself harbored a runaway slave in her Brunswick home.
“When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, it immediately caused a stir and created a groundswell of anti-slavery feeling,” reads the BBC’s description. The program “traces the reactions to this work from the Abolition Movement, through the Civil Rights Movement to the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the murder of Trayvon Martin last year.”
Chakkalakal and Professor of English Peter Coviello will be co-teaching a Spring 2014 course called “The Afterlives of Uncle Tom” as part of the College’s new Civil War course cluster, funded by a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.