Uncle Tom’s Cabin and African American Abolitionists with Edward Whitley | Virtual Course

Date / Time

  • October 25, 2023
    6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
  • November 8, 2023
    6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
  • November 29, 2023
    6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
  • December 13, 2023
    6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


This program is supported by the Rosenbach Literature Fund


  • Tuition for this course is $200. 10% off for Rosenbach members and the Delancey Society. Not a member? Learn more.
  • This course is limited to participants who are 18 years of age or older.
  • Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation. If you have questions, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • This course meets virtually on Zoom, with a special in-person presentation of materials at the Rosenbach on Saturday, November 4 from 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. Virtual sessions will be recorded.
  • Registration opens for Delancey Society members on Wednesday, August 16, for Rosenbach members on Wednesday, August 23, and for the general public on Wednesday, August 30.




When Abraham Lincoln invited Harriet Beecher Stowe to the White House in 1862, he (reportedly) called her “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” It’s unlikely, of course, that a single novel led to the U.S. Civil War — even one as influential as Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) — but the book’s depiction of life under slavery did indeed help to make abolitionism a mainstream political cause. Uncle Tom’s Cabin tells the stories of two enslaved African Americans: Eliza, who runs away from a Kentucky plantation and heads North with her infant child; and Uncle Tom, who is sold into increasingly desperate situations down the Mississippi River. The novel combines all of the tropes of nineteenth-century sentimental literature (true love, hair’s-breadth escapes, sinister villains, religious conversions, and reunions of long-lost family members) with a ripped-from-the-headlines realism that put readers right into the middle of the abolitionist press. 

In this four-week online class, we will read about ten chapters of Uncle Tom’s Cabin for every session, along with short selections of poetry, journalism, and speeches by African American abolitionists. The class also includes an optional in-person session at the Rosenbach on Saturday, November 4 at 10am, where class members will have the opportunity to see an original edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Civil War-era documents, abolitionist texts, and examples of some of the earliest African American poetry from the eighteenth century.  

Uncle Tom’s Cabin syllabus

About the instructor 

Edward Whitley is Professor and Chairperson of the English Department at Lehigh University, where he teaches courses in American literature and humanities approaches to data scienceHe is the author of American Bards: Walt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) and editor of the forthcoming Noton Library edition of Leaves of Grass. He is also editing the first critical edition of A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin with Christopher N. Phillips and Zachary McLeod Hutchins for Oxford University Press’s Collected Works of Harriet Beecher Stowe.  

Image caption: Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896), Uncle Tom’s Cabin; with 27 illustrations on wood by George Cruikshank. London: John Cassell, 1852. Rosenbach call number AL1 .S892u 852c.