'It's a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done."
So spoke, and lived, Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose famed novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" helped turn the country against slavery and lay the groundwork for the Civil War. Legend has it President Abraham Lincoln called her "the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
Mrs. Stowe was born in Litchfield on June 14, 1811, 200 years ago next week. Her bicentennial is being celebrated in Hartford this week by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, located in two lovely historic homes in Nook Farm, the famed 19th-century literary neighborhood on Forest Street in Hartford where she spent the latter part of her life.
A problem with many home museums is that, having visited them once, many people don't feel the need to go again. The Stowe Center, under executive director Katherine Kane, has garnered a national reputation for making this historic site vital with programming on contemporary themes, such as slavery and feminism, that resonate in Mrs. Stowe's work.
For the bicentennial, Ms. Kane and her staff have outdone themselves. Today, authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn will talk about their book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity Worldwide," in a dialogue at Immanuel Congregational Church moderated by Laurie Perez of Fox CT News.
Tomorrow morning, members of the Congressional Black Caucus will join U.S. Rep. John B. Larson and local leaders at The Belding Theater at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts for a conversation on race and social justice.
There will be a community open house on Saturday and a 24-hour reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin on Tuesday. See www.HarrietBeecherStowe.org for more details.
At a time when sex trafficking, the achievement gap and health disparities challenge the commitment to justice, Mrs. Stowe's intellectual legacy is as important as ever. With these events and the World Youth Peace Summit coming later this month, Hartford will be a center for the discussion of these critical issues, as it was when Mrs. Stowe made it her home.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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