History

Why is this site important?

With these simple words, Harriet Beecher Stowe introduced what would become the most influential novel of the nineteenth century. Stowe lived in Cincinnati for nearly twenty years, during which time she became friends with Ohio abolitionists, including Rev. John Rankin, John Van Zandt, and Levi Coffin. She heard the stories of the sufferings of slaves and their attempts to escape through Cincinnati on the Underground Railroad—stories that she would eventually feature in her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Ten years after its serial publication, the country would be engaged in full battle over slavery and states’ rights, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin would be seen as a pivotal catalyst to that confrontation. The region was also prominently featured in A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in which she detailed the real-life people and events that inspired the characters in the novel. 

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is an important site in Ohio’s history, particularly concerning its role in the abolitionist movement and Underground Railroad. Although slavery had been prohibited north of the Ohio River since the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Cincinnati’s strong business ties to the South and its close proximity to slave-holding Kentucky, drew Ohioans into the controversy and the abolitionist movement. Thousands of runaway slaves passed through Cincinnati as they traveled to freedom along the Underground Railroad.