Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was published in 1852. Though critics have, until recently, looked upon it with disdain, it has perhaps achieved greater practical ends than any other book ever written. Composed as an anti-slavery polemic, it was so successful in galvanizing the tide of public feeling that it is not an exaggeration to say it helped foment the Civil War. However, later readers coming to the book from the perspective of a changed society found it less progressive. Stowe had intended Uncle Tom, the novel’s protagonist, to be a noble hero, exciting as much admiration as compassion. For her contemporary audience he achieved these things, but for ensuing generations, he embodied a condescending racist stereotype of black passivity and endless tolerance for the whites who maltreated him.