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"Was Uncle Tom from South Carolina?" Thoughts about revelations, inspirations and the storied life of John Andrew Jackson

  • 2/10/2014 | 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
  • Location: Massachusetts Hall, Faculty Room
  • Event Type: Lecture

"Was Uncle Tom from South Carolina?" Thoughts about revelations, inspirations and the storied life of John Andrew JacksonSusanna Ashton, Professor of English at Clemson University, made an exciting discovery in 2013 - she found the previously unnamed slave who she believes helped inspire Harriet Beecher Stowe to pen Uncle Tom's Cabin.

His name is John Andrew Jackson, and in 1850 he was fleeing the recently passed Fugitive Slave Act. After arriving in Maine, he was directed to Stowe's home where she took him in for the night, hiding him in her home's "waste room."

Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1852, fueled the abolitionist movement and helped set the nation on the path to abolishing slavery. Some even claimed it helped start the Civil War.

Jackson was born in 1825 on a mid-size plantation in what is now known as Lee County, S.C. He had a wife and daughter who were sold and sent to Georgia. Shortly after, Jackson made his escape. He made his way to Canada by way of Maine, where he was directed to Stowe's home.

Jackson later learned to read and write and published his own book, The Experience of a Slave in South Carolina, in which he writes, "(Stowe) took me in and fed me, and gave me some clothes and five dollars. She also inspected my back, which is covered with scars which I shall carry with me to the grave. She listened with great interest to my story."

Ashton will talk about how this discovery "changes the history of one of the most important works of American literature." Her findings can be found here: http://www.common-place.org/vol-13/no-04/ashton/

This lecture is presented as part of the Civil War Era cluster, made possible with a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.