ABSTRACT

Uncle Tom's fall from grace took almost a century. Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) was immediately adapted into stage productions, which foregrounded Tom's humanity. But the high regard in which most people held Tom began to change in the late nineteenth century, when members of the Black audience began to see him as representative of an “Old Negro” type. The twentieth century multiplied the venues in which Tom appeared, but it also witnessed the further erosion of Tom into his present incarnation as an intraracial epithet. This is the story told by Adena Spingarn in her richly researched book, Uncle Tom: From Martyr to Traitor. Although Spingarn's book smooths out some of the interpretive lumps of Uncle Tom and Uncle Tom's Cabin, its simplifications are compensated for by the artifacts it unearths and the attention it pays to the reception of Uncle Tom by a changing Black audience.

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