Mightier Than the Sword

Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America

by David S. Reynolds

 

“Fascinating…a lively and perceptive cultural history.”

— Annette Gordon-Reed, The New Yorker

 

 

 

Praise

Purchase

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– THE DAILY BEAST

 

 

About the Book

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is perhaps the most influential and iconic novel ever written by an American.  In this captivating cultural history, David S. Reynolds not only charts the factors that conspired to make Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 an instant bestseller but also traces the novel’s political, cultural, and social legacy up to the present day.

 

As Reynolds reveals, the American imagination was primed for Stowe’s novel.  A member of a prominent, reform-minded New England family, Stowe drew from all realms of culture, high and low—religion, thrillers, slave narratives—to create a uniquely American text, one that would advocate on behalf of the oppressed and pave the way for a more egalitarian democracy.

 

By illustrating the evils of slavery with a moving, character-driven story—which Stowe claimed was inspired by her own divine visions—Uncle Tom’s Cabin accelerated the rise of abolitionism in the north.  In the South, it met with contrasting reactions: it appealed to some with its portrayal of kind southerners and an evil northerner, Simon Legree, while others could not condemn it enough.  Could a single book have fueled the Civil War?  Reynolds investigates this often-mentioned assumption to gauge how this one woman contributed to the fracturing of the nation.

 

In the war’s wake, Uncle Tom’s Cabin influenced emancipation causes worldwide, during that century and the next.  And, despite the legalized segregation of the Jim Crow era, it remained popular, being spun off into traveling shows, silent films, advertising campaigns, cartoons, and merchandise ranging from figurines to card games.  The Southern backlash to its pawned such works as The Clansman; its film version, The Birth of a Nation; and even Gone with the Wind.

 

Fascinating and far-reaching, Mightier than the Sword is a testament to one novel’s unique power to shape the course of American history and identity.


Critical Praise for Mightier Than the Sword

 

“Fascinating…a lively and perceptive cultural history.”
Annette Gordon-Reed, The New Yorker

Praise [link to the following blurbs]:

 “Insightful,….informative,….rewarding.”

 — Andrew Delbanco, New York Times Book Review 

“A stunning look at the importance of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

–Stanley Crouch, New York Daily News

“A subtle and splendid history of the novel’s effect on American culture.”

–Fergus Bordewich, Wall Street Journal

“Bravura work….Reynolds has given us another cultural history of assured mastery, a history that combines deep erudition, lightly worn, with a lively and readable style.”

Dallas Morning News

“Consistently enlightening…Mightier Than the Sword deftly explores the social-intellectual context and personal experience out of which Stowe’s novel evolved into a grand entertainment and a titanic engine of change.”

The Boston Globe

“Expansive and illuminating….One of the pleasures of “Mightier Than the Sword” is discovering that “Uncle Tom’s fingerprints on history are almost everywhere.”

– Adam Goodheart, Slate

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin invigorated the aboltion movement in a way that mere data had not, as David S. Reynolds dcocuments in his excellent study.”

–Martha Nussbaum, Times Literary Suplement

A richly informative and entertaining work of scholarship, a generation-spanning account of American race relations, and a testament to the power of a book to change history….A sparkling and sprawling narrative.”

Common-place

“The crowning achievement of a lifetime of outstanding scholarship….Well written and accessible while still being useful for researchers. It tells a great story and provides much interesting detail, and I would highly recommend it for history buffs as well as literature students of all ages.”

–Harold K. Bush, Books and Culture

Starred Review: “A provocative overview of the life and afterlife of one of American literature’s most important texts….A sharp work of cross-disciplinary criticism that gives new power to a diminished novel. Reynolds successfully repositions the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe as a major political work, crucial not just to the abolitionist movement, but as kindling for the Civil War and an important inspiration to the cultural discussions of race relations through most of the 20th century”

Kirkus Reviews

“Reynolds is a virtuoso writer…A fitting tribute to the 200th anniversary of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s birth.”

–Mike Harvkey, Publishers Weekly

“A wonderful history of what may justly be considered America’s national epic.”

 –Joan Hedrick, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life

“Deeply researched and compulsively readable…Both the definitive account of the strange but true career of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and a sweeping two-hundred year history of race in America.”

–Debby Applegate, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

“You can always count on David Reynolds to surprise and delight, and in his latest work, he does not disappoint. This time, he sets his sights on the far-ranging and fascinating impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s mammoth bestseller, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In Reynolds’s gifted hands, Mightier Than The Sword is nothing less than an intellectual feast. Bravo for yet another superb book.”

 –Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval

Media Appearances for Mightier Than the Sword :

Television Interviews

David S. Reynolds on C-SPAN-2, about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America

David S. Reynolds interviewed by Doug Muzzio about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America on “City Talk,” CUNY TV

Radio Interviews

David S. Reynolds interviewed about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, “The Diane Rehm Show,” WAMU-FM/National Public Radio

David S. Reynolds interviewed about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by John Batchelor, WABC National Radio

David S. Reynolds (and Annette Gordon-Reed) interviewed about Harriet Beecher Stowe by Marc Steiner on WEAA 88.9 FM

David S. Reynolds, interviewed by Kerri Miller on “How Did ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ Shape America?,’ MPRNews, The Daily Circuit, September 26, 2012.

David S. Reynolds interviewed about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by Wilmer Leon, “Inside the Issues,” XM Channel 169

Lecture

David S. Reynolds’s Talk and Q & A on Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, Fitton Center, Hamilton, Ohio

Podcasts

David S. Reynolds interviewed about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by Gerald Cirrincione, “The Art of the Tangent”

David S. Reynolds on Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America for Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History

David S. Reynolds interviewed about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by Francesca Rheannon on “Writer’s Voice”

Newspapers & Magazine Interviews

David S. Reynolds interviewed about Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America by Randy Dotinga, Christian Science Monitor

David S. Reynolds interviewed about “The Woman Who Caused the Civil War” by Teresa Cotsirilos, Salon

Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America on “City Talk,” CUNY TV