Back in March, I had an opportunity to watch a speech by Barak Obama on YouTube. It was the 40th anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King. This got me thinking that I had missed doing anything of note during Black History Month, for which February is usually the designate. It’s not like I typically <em>do</em> anything for BHM, but maybe it’s high time to start.<br />n<br />nThinking and clicking around the net, I realized that I never actually sat down and read the American abolitionist classic, <em>Uncle Tom’s Cabin</em>. So I picked up a convenient paperback copy which was published, republished, really, just a few years ago. The fact that it was republished, yet again, is telling about the popularity of this story.<br />n<br />nI’m not one to really provide reviews of books I’ve read, and you probably don’t want me to anyway. But let me just say, this is a Really Good Story. It’s a shame that I haven’t gotten to this novel before now. The story is really, really intriguing, and Ms. Stowe really knows how to pull on your emotional levers. In particular, beautifully told was the story of a benevolent slave owner’s daughter, Eva, and the tragedy that befell her. I couldn’t put the book down until I knew what the narration was leading up to, and thus I closed the lights very late for a couple of nights.<br />n<br />nThis classic comes very highly recommended.<br />n<br />nAfter I was through it, of course I wanted more. I did some more research on the net, and Wikipedia discussed the book, as well as so-called Anti Tom literature. This article said that the foremost Anti Tom book that was released in the antebellum United States was <em>The Sword and the Distaff</em>, or <em>Woodcraft</em>, as was the title of the copy I read.<br />n<br />nIt took me some time to find a copy of this book. The local public library had only one copy, and that was only because it’s associated with the local state university system, both sharing their main library facilities and collections. When I found the hard bound volume, it had a thik layer of dust on top, as did all the books on that bottom shelf in a nearly forgotten corner of a nearly forgotten floor. I literally had to blow the dust off the top to keep from it spilling everywhere. No kidding.<br />n<br />nThis edition was a reprint from about 1967. It was probably purchased by the university as part of a series of books the publisher called “Americans in Fiction Series” and then quickly archived. The old paper-based check out system, still glued to the inside front cover page, showed it was checked out no more than two or three times, the last in the early to mid nineteen eighties. Well, it’s my turn now.<br />n<br />nI was half expecting to find a story that showed how well slaves were treated in the United States, with lots of attention being paid to the peculiar institution in all its pleasantness. It turns out the story is mainly about the goings on of a certain US army captain after the American revolutionary war, who happened to have a few slaves that stayed with him during the conflict, and remained, true to him at his side, afterward. It’s important to know this captain also had a couple other companions that stayed with him through the thick and the thin, and as far as I could tell by the vivid descriptions of their physical characteristics, they were certainly white. This suggests to me that the fact that his slaves were happy companions was diluted, blurred by these other two or three guys who were also happy and contented staying with their leader, destitute as he may have been after seven years of living in the woods, fighting the British and the Tories.<br />n<br />nOtherwise, it was an interesting story, with its own twists and turns, action, adventure and surprises. I would even recommend it as being a candidate for the basis of a movie.<br />n<br />nI’m off to find another book along the same lines. These authors from two centuries ago have an interesting writing style that is a pleasure to read: Readable yet using sentence structure and words which still exist, in the dictionary, but aren’t used anymore.