“White lives matter.”
That is what a visitor said as he walked up to a Stowe Center tour guide on a recent afternoon. He was looking at the guide’s Black Lives Matter handbag as he spoke.
This type of interaction is not unusual at the Stowe Center. The topics visitors discuss—enslavement, racism, women and gender, class—often elicit discomfort, which sometimes manifests in comments that are biased, and sometimes downright aggressive.
At the Stowe Center we lean-in to comments such as these to help us all move forward. Our willingness to discuss difficult topics is one of the defining aspects of the Stowe Center—it differentiates us from other house museums (although more and more historic sites are taking our lead) and it helps us fulfill our mission to inspire commitment to social justice and positive change. It is not easy work and it requires great skill.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was strategic when she chose to voice her protest as a sentimental novelist. She honed her craft in the salon, reading out passages to see their effect on her audience. If they were moved, if they cried, she noted her success in touching their hearts as well as their minds. Harriet knew that taking on an entrenched culture—slavery—would require evoking empathy.
Today, we face ongoing untenable consequences of a history of slavery and racism. The Stowe Center—with its tools of respectful dialog, primary historical artifacts, prize-winning social justice literature, and unflinching willingness to engage—continues the legacy of Harriet as an inspiration for positive change.
You can help. Your donation today will inspire an ongoing commitment to social justice and positive change through vibrant discussion of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s life and legacy.
The issues Harriet was trying to address persist today. We also need to persist. There is no rest for each and all of us who are working to promote a more equitable world.
Your generous gift will support Harriet’s legacy of action.
So how did the Stowe Center guide respond to the man who said “White lives matter.” First, she took a breath to compose herself. Then she said: “Yes, and Black people want everyone to realize that their lives matter, too.”
The visitor considered and then decided to take the tour with his wife, instead of waiting for her outside. He was a quiet tour participant, the Stowe Center guide said, but he listened.
That is a great first step. But we need your help now, so that others have the opportunity to take this first step too.
Please consider a gift today. Your contribution will give more people the opportunity to come together and share open, honest, and difficult dialogue. Through these conversations, together, we can and will create a more equitable world.