Uncle Tom's Cabin
Race Quotes Page 4
How we cite our quotes:
"I was brought up in luxury; the first I remember is, playing about, when I was a child, in splendid parlors, – when I was kept dressed up like a doll, and company and visitors used to praise me. There was a garden opening from the saloon windows; and there I used to play hide-and-go-seek, under the orange-trees, with my brothers and sisters. I went to a convent, and there I learned music, French and embroidery, and what not; and when I was fourteen, I came out to my father's funeral. He died very suddenly, and when the property came to be settled, they found that there was scarcely enough to cover the debts; and when the creditors took an inventory of the property, I was set down in it. My mother was a slave woman, and my father had always meant to set me free; but he had not done it, and so I was set down in the list." (34.46)
Here, Cassy tells Tom her history: the daughter of a free white gentleman and a black slave woman, she moves from the a life of privilege and education to one of slavery and degradation as a result of her father’s death. The very fact that Cassy can exist in either condition shows the reader that her racial background doesn’t prevent Cassy from being a refined Victorian lady – only the subjection of the law of slavery does that.
It’s important to notice that Cassy is labeled in this chapter (although not in this passage) as a "quadroon," meaning someone who is one-quarter black. The 19th century was obsessed with developing specialized terminology to describe the exact racial background of people, including terms like "mulatto," "quadroon," and "octoroon." Notice that this implies lots of racial mixing, and the fact that white people are keeping partly white children as slaves, too. Also, if Cassy is a "quadroon," that means her mother must have been half white too – and that her daughter, Eliza, is only one-eighth black, or "octoroon." At this point, black and white are so mixed that it becomes ridiculous to label "blacks" as "slaves" or as a completely different race.
"I feel somewhat at a loss, as to my future course. True, as you have said to me, I might mingle in the circles of the whites, in this country, my shade of color is so slight, and that of my wife and family scarce perceptible. Well, perhaps, on sufferance, I might. But, to tell you the truth, I have no wish to.
"My sympathies are not for my father's race, but for my mother's. To him I was no more than a fine dog or horse: to my poor heart-broken mother I was a child; and, though I never saw her, after the cruel sale that separated us, till she died, yet I know she always loved me dearly. I know it by my own heart. When I think of all she suffered, of my own early sufferings, of the distresses and struggles of my heroic wife, of my sister, sold in the New Orleans slave-market, – though I hope to have no unchristian sentiments, yet I may be excused for saying, I have no wish to pass for an American, or to identify myself with them.
"It is with the oppressed, enslaved African race that I cast in my lot; and, if I wished anything, I would wish myself two shades darker, rather than one lighter." (43.33)
In a letter to his friends, George Harris explains his decision to emigrate to Liberia: he wants to join with others of African descent and form a nation of their own. George is proud of his black heritage and doesn’t want to live in America by "passing" for white. The reader, however, is a little bit concerned about George leaving America: shouldn’t the novel try to create racial harmony within the United States, instead of sending educated freemen like George back to Africa? Is Stowe’s support for Liberian colonialism another kind of racism? Or is it a way to create political power for former slaves?