As always, this is not a book report. Rather, it is an opportunity to discuss some ideas that stuck with me while reading “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
A Mother’s Love
There may be no stronger force in the universe than a mother’s love. In thousands of examples across the animal kingdom, the protection and survival of the next generation falls on the shoulders of mothers. When fathers are absent or violent, mothers are there holding steadfast. When a mother is separated from her child and the prospect of that child being sold into the bondage of slavery is on the horizon, a mother’s love is damn near impossible to stop. Yet, even here, we learn a mother’s love cannot stop the cruel and barbaric hands of a system designed to commodify human beings. The scenes in this book focused on mother and child will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Religion and Slavery
Ephesians 6:5 commands, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ…” Beyond this verse, the Bible has plenty to say about slavery. Most of which is bent in favor of the slave master. For this reason, Southerners often used the Bible as proof of their divine right to own human beings. What I find odd, beyond a book that allows people to own other people, is the number of Christian Southerners who forgot what Colossians 4:1 had to say on the subject, “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”
God and the Hard Times
“Pagans during the good times,” is a phrase I have heard repeatedly throughout my life. It is a phrase I know and have exercised first hand. One of the things that struck about this book was the steadfast faith of so many of the slaves. Generations upon generations had cried out to God for freedom. They were met with continued enslavement, bondage, brutal beatings, and eventually death knowing nothing but the life of a slave. Yet, they were never “pagans during the good times.” They remained faithful even as God continued to ignore their cries. That is powerful to me even though I don’t share their faith.
To discover my ancestors were nothing short of abolitionists would be disappointing. To discover they were slave owners or fought for the Confederacy, would be maddening. The guilt I would feel to discover something so egregious is almost indescribable. Yet, given what I know, I fear the worst. The question then becomes what to do with this guilt. The first step is to own my guilt and then to find a way to positively impact the community I find myself. This involves learning, practicing being an ally, and supporting amazing leaders already present in the field. Slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement may be in the rearview mirror, yet there are still battles to be won in order to perfect our union. In order to play my part and attempt to atone for sins of my past, it is the least I can do.
Be good to each other,
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