"Uncle Tom" is a derogatory term used by Black Americans to describe someone who is overeager to win the approval of Whites. Surprisingly, 150 years ago, it was a compliment to be called Uncle Tom.
Uncle Tom originated as a fictional hero from the novel "Uncle Tom Cabnet", written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. When the book was released in March 1852, it was an immediate sensation. In the US alone it sold 300,000 copies in a year, and more than 2m copies by the end of the decade. The character "Uncle Tom" was passive, not out of stupidity and he definitely wasn't joyful of his position, but was passive due to his religious values, which requires him to love everyone and selflessly endure his trials. Tom was very religious, had strength of faith. He spread love others, helping to alleviate the pain of slavery and enhance the hope of salvation. He encouraged others’ attempts at freedom. That is why he supported Eliza’s escape, as well as that of Cassy and Emmeline from the Legree plantation. Even though, Tom did not actively seek his own freedom, he practiced a kind of resistance in his passivity. When Legree orders him to beat the slave girl in Chapter 33, he refuses, standing firm in his values. He submitted to being beaten for his beliefs, but he did not capitulated or ran away.
The fictitious Tom's actual attributes and flaws over time became incidental. Black America had another use for him in real life. He was to represent the sell-outs of the Black race.
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