Abstract

In 1854, Harriet Beecher Stowe adapted a portion of Uncle Tom's Cabin into a one-woman dramatic reading entitled The Christian Slave, despite her clear abhorrence for the theatre and for the unauthorized melodramatic adaptations of her best-selling novel. This article argues that although Stowe outwardly rejected secular theatre practice, her staged reading is a representation of how she engaged with theatre in order to spread her anti-slavery message to a broader audience. This article profiles the actress for whom Stowe wrote the play—a mixed-race woman named Mary E. Webb—and argues that Webb's Black body was a tactic to give Stowe's words an added layer of authenticity. It also illuminates the play's innate use of theatricality and sensation. Not only was Stowe aware of the popular theatrical form of her day, but she engaged with these forms to appeal to an audience outside of her readership, furthering her message of evangelical abolition.

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