Member Blogs > Books Tell You WhyWhat Were Americans Reading When We Landed on the Moon?

  • Fri, 19 Jul 2019 08:00:00    Permalink
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    Sometime around Thanksgiving 1862, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), met sitting-president Abraham Lincoln. Upon the initial introduction, Lincoln famously quipped, “So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” Accounts of the exact wording vary, and in fact the whole story may be apocryphal, but it still speaks to the way that art and media help us make sense of history as it unfolds around us. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or, if not Stowe’s novel, then perhaps works like Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1961) or 1845's The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass) gave 19th century readers new ways of understanding the “peculiar institution” over which the Civil War would be fought. As the war progressed, books like these continued to act as touchstones for anyone seeking to understand the conflict, the nation, and the world.

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