Marathon Reading of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

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The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is pleased to present its third Marathon Reading of Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Stowe’s book changed how Americans viewed slavery, galvanized the abolition movement, and contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War.  The event begins at Noon on March 19 and ends at 10 AM March 20.  Volunteer to read aloud or just listen in.

At least 50,000 people read Uncle Tom’s Cabin in its first published form, the 41 weekly installments that appeared between June 5, 1851 and April 1, 1852 in the National Era, a Washington DC anti-slavery newspaper with a national readership.  This means that Stowe's story would have been one of the most widely read 19th-century American novels even if it had never been published in book form.

In today’s parlance, Stowe’s story went viral: In March, 1851, when Stowe first wrote the Era's publisher and editor to offer a story that she thought would last for three or four installments, the paper had about 15,000 subscribers. When she sent in the final installment, almost a year later, the paper had 19,000 subscribers — many of whom had written to the paper to say how much they looked forward to Friday, when the mail brought the new Era and the whole family would gather together to hear the latest chapter in the story read aloud.

Join us as we read the story aloud, much like readers of the National Era encountering the moving and inspiring tale for the first time.  The Marathon Reading commemorates the story’s 1852 publishing as a book that would go on to become an international bestseller translated into dozens of languages.

A VIP traditionally kicks-off the reading which opens on the Shelby plantation in Kentucky as two enslaved people, Tom, a strong religious man, and 4-year old Harry, are sold to pay Shelby family debts. From that moment to approximately 20 hours later when Harry and his mother Eliza escape to Canada and Tom dies by order of Simon Legree, nearly 100 readers each will have read a short passage from the novel. Some will have read in foreign languages, followed by that same passage in English. At the end, some hardy souls will have stayed for the whole adventure.

Volunteer to read aloud from this moving and inspiring tale just as thousands did in 19th-century parlors.  As Uncle Tom's Cabin is widely read internationally, we encourage people from both inside and outside the U.S. to volunteer to read in languages other than English.  If you can't be here in person, you can read via Skype.  Sign up for a 10-minute reading – in English or other languages including signing:  860-522-9258, ext. 302 or

Theater Groups: Volunteer to reenact a scene from the book.

Other ways to participate:

  •     Stop in to listen
  •     Join via Skype
  •     Listen to the live stream at