New Anti-Tom Literature


Exhibit created by Essence Smith, Class of 2024, Trinity College


This exhibit examines the literary works of African-American writers from the early 20th Century to today, who have responded to publication and the impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and have reimagined themselves using their own voice.

Anti-Uncle Tom Works by African Americans existed first as slave narratives (or freedom narratives) in the 19th century, and helped Stowe formulated ideas on slavery and its abuses. Why is it then that Americans were more inclined to listen to a white woman’s fiction, than a Black person’s nonfiction?

The writers featured in this exhibit incorporate a variety of different genres, thus highlighting the evolution of race representation that occurred throughout the years.

Please be advised

Collections items sometimes include negative depictions and/or understandings of people or culture, sometimes referred to as stereotypes, as well as language that is racist in nature. These stereotypes do not allow recognition of and appreciation for individuality and personal agency. The Stowe Center shares these collection items to prompt understanding of how racism has persisted through the legacy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American history. The Stowe Center is committed to preserving historic collections that deepen our awareness of racism’s modern representation in order to build a more just future.


Richard Wright

Wright in a 1939 photograph by Carl Van Vechten (Wikipedia) 

Uncle Tom’s Children 

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Connecticut Collections

Uncle Tom’s Children was published by Richard Wright in 1938 in response to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This book not only highlights the enslavement period and its aftermath but focuses on African Americans reclaiming a sense of agency.


“I had written a book of short stories which was published under the title of “Uncle Tom’s Children”. When the review of that book began to appear, I realized that I had made an awful naive mistake. I found that I had written a book which even bankers’ daughters could read and weep over and feel good about. I swore to myself that if I ever wrote another book, no one would weep over it; that it would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears.”

Richard Wright in How Bigger was Born

Richard Wright went on to write Native Son which was the infamous story of Bigger Thomas, a young Black man who was the victim of racism and ignorance.

Native Son. Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. CT Collections, link forthcoming.


Richard Wright stars as Bigger Thomas in a screen test for Native Son. The first scene expresses Bigger’s desire to escape his current environment, and the second scene shows Bigger confronting Bessie.

Julia Wright reveals the motivation behind Richard Wright’s novels.




Notes of a Native Son

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Connecticut Collections
Notes of a Native Son written by James Baldwin was a series of essays that discussed race relations. This edition was published in 1963. It includes his 1949 essay “Everybody’s Protest Novel” in which he calls Uncle Tom’s Cabin “a very bad novel.” Baldwin criticizes Stowe’s anti-slavery work for its virtuous sentimentality and oversimplifying her Black characters, diminishing their humanity.



“Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom are dead, their places taken by a group of amazingly well-adjusted young men and women, almost as dark, but ferociously literate, well-dressed and scrubbed, who are never laughed at, who are not likely ever to set foot in a cotton or tobacco field or in any but the most modern of kitchens.”

James Baldwin in “Many Thousands Gone” (an essay published in Notes of A Native Son)

 “Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom, our creations, at the last evaded us; they had a life — their own, perhaps a better life than ours — and they would never tell us what it was.”

James Baldwin in “Many Thousands Gone”



James Baldwin in Paris. Directed by Terence Dixon 1970. 


Relationship with Richard Wright

“Spreading the Word.” National Museum of African American History and Culture. February 28, 2023. https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/spreading-word. ‌




While both Richard Wright and James Baldwin are influential writers that have contributed greatly to the conversation about race in the United States, they had different perspectives on how their literature could be used to achieve a certain goal. The tension between Wright and Baldwin most resembles the tension of Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany a century earlier who disagreed on the benefits of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Thus, highlighting the fact that Black writers aren’t a monolith.


Josiah Henson, a former slave who escaped to Canada, was one of the freedom seekers who inspired Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. CT Collections.




Martin Delany says that Stowe “knows nothing about us, the Free Colored people of the United States”.

Martin Delany states that Josiah Henson is the “real Uncle Tom”.

Martin goes on to question if Stowe is genuine.


Learn more about Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany’s relationship in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Frederick Douglass’ Paper: An Analysis of Reception” by Robert S. Levine.




Amiri Baraka



Tales by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) is a collection of essays published in 1967. It features Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Alternate Ending aiming to reinterpret the original story without giving into melodramatic spectacles. Baraka, one of the key figures of the Black Arts Movement, used his writing to give agency to his Black characters.


Black Arts Movement

Amiri Baraka reveals how the Black Arts Movement has impacted the content of his poetry.


The artist’s role is to raise the consciousness of the people. To make them understand life, the world and themselves more completely. That’s how I see it. Otherwise, I don’t know why you do it.

Amiri Baraka

The Foundations of Black Power

Black is Beautiful: The Emergence of Black Culture and Identity in the 60s and 70s

More than a Fashion Statement



Ismael Reed

San Francisco Public Library, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Flight to Canada

Flight to Canada is a novel published by Ishmael Reed in 1976. Reed’s novel serves as a mimicry to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with the most blatant examples being the made-up TV show titled the “Beecher Hour” and Raven being asked to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin at the end of the book.

Ishmael Reed describes his writing style and where he draws inspiration from.



Toni Morrison

Angela Radulescu, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Beloved written by Toni Morrison explores the Reconstruction period following the American Civil War. The book was published in 1987. Both Morrison and Stowe tell a story about the separation of enslaved parents and children. However, Morrison also focuses on other harsh realities of enslaved Black women, such as committing infanticide, that Stowe didn’t address in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

In the above video, Toni Morrison reads an excerpt from Beloved, and describes a mother’s compulsion to protect her children from pain and hardship even if extreme measures have to be taken.

Likewise, in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Morrison also chooses to examine the painful lens in which an enslaved mother struggles to give their child a better life. Though, Morrison’s character, Sethe, sees death as the only option for her child, Stowe paints a more hopeful story.

Margaret Garner, a Runaway Slave Who Killed Her Own Daughter

Reproduction and Resistance – Hidden Voices: Enslaved Women in the Lowcountry and U.S. South

Margaret Garner: A Second Look



Colson Whitehead

David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad is a historic fiction novel that is based on the lives of enslaved people who were seeking freedom. The book features elements of fantasy and was adapted into a TV show in 2021. The novel tells a story of resistance through the eyes of African Americans that wanted to regain agency, in contrast to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The Underground Railroad Miniseries

More on The Underground Railroad

This is a reward poster that describes the features of enslaved men who ran away to seek freedom. Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. CT Collections.



Michael A. Marcus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Underground Railroad Sites on the Connecticut Freedom Trail

Explore the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center


Ta-Nehisi Coates

Oregon State University, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Water Dancer

Bestselling author of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, presents The Water Dancer – a novel about a young boy with a mysterious superpower. Similar to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Coates recounts the horrors of enslavement but chooses to do so through the power of memory.