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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Race Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

"It's undoubtedly the intention of Providence that the African race should be servants, – kept in a low condition," said a grave-looking gentleman in black, a clergyman, seated by the cabin door. "'Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be,' the scripture says." (12.70)

This is one of the common 19th century defenses of slavery – the claim that blacks are a race cursed by God and that the Bible condemns them to be slaves forever. (See the theme "Religion" for a more extended discussion of this passage.)

Quote #5

"O, there's Mammy!" said Eva, as she flew across the room; and, throwing herself into her arms, she kissed her repeatedly.

This woman did not tell her that she made her head ache, but, on the contrary, she hugged her, and laughed, and cried, till her sanity was a thing to be doubted of; and when released from her, Eva flew from one to another, shaking hands and kissing, in a way that Miss Ophelia afterwards declared fairly turned her stomach.

"Well!" said Miss Ophelia, "you southern children can do something that I couldn't."

"What, now, pray?" said St. Clare.

"Well, I want to be kind to everybody, and I wouldn't have anything hurt; but as to kissing – "

"Niggers," said St. Clare, "that you're not up to, – hey?"

"Yes, that's it. How can she?" (15.80-86)

Miss Ophelia may be an abolitionist, but she’s still prejudiced against blacks. She cares about blacks as human beings in theory, but her deep-seated racism makes her reluctant to touch them or interact with them on a personal level. Stowe makes Ophelia’s attitude here emblematic of the North as a whole – a place that claims to be interested in the welfare of blacks, but doesn’t really want to have them around. Of course, this is a broad generalization, but an important one.

Quote #6

"Don't you believe that the Lord made them of one blood with us?" said Miss Ophelia, shortly.

"No, indeed not I! A pretty story, truly! They are a degraded race."

"Don't you think they've got immortal souls?" said Miss Ophelia, with increasing indignation.

"O, well," said Marie, yawning, "that, of course – nobody doubts that. But as to putting them on any sort of equality with us, you know, as if we could be compared, why, it's impossible! Now, St. Clare really has talked to me as if keeping Mammy from her husband was like keeping me from mine. There's no comparing in this way. Mammy couldn't have the feelings that I should. It's a different thing altogether, – of course, it is, – and yet St. Clare pretends not to see it. And just as if Mammy could love her little dirty babies as I love Eva! Yet St. Clare once really and soberly tried to persuade me that it was my duty, with my weak health, and all I suffer, to let Mammy go back, and take somebody else in her place. (16.55-58)

Stowe shows us how complicated racism can be. Marie St. Clare is the most extreme kind of racist; like Haley, she believes blacks have duller feelings than whites, and that the sentiments of a black mother and a white mother toward their children can’t be compared. Ophelia is willing to grant that blacks and whites are the same race and have the same kind of immortal souls. She thinks Marie St. Clare should treat her slaves with greater human compassion. But we’ve seen in other passages that she has a standoffish racism of her own.

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