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Goodbye to Uncle Tom by J. C. Furnas
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Goodbye to Uncle Tom

by J. C. Furnas

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Actually an interesting book, if a bit strange. Not so much because of its commentary on race, but for the long and strange history of productions of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the birth of professional "Tommers" on the American Scene. Reading this book actually gave me a lot of insight, afterwards, when reading books written from 1890 - 1940. They have offhanded mentions to "Tommer's" or "Eliza crossin the Ice" and I would have never caught the meaning or relevance without this book. Productions of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was such a phenomenon that people made their living traveling as "Tommers" and putting on local productions across the nation (and world). It was also considered, after 1915, to be the lowest rung on the theater circuit. These productions played in the smallest towns, mining camps, and puritian towns that either didn't allow theater troups or were to small to attract real ones. Because of the "Christian Morals and Message" supposedly incapsulated in the play people who were normally taught to view theater going as a sin were allowed to see this one production. Any actor of the peroid could do the play by rote memory it was so common and popular around the country. The story of how it became common currency in the American venacular is more interesting than you would think. Not at all what I expected from this book, but was happily suprised and enlightened. It also has some interesting history going back to plantation life and mores at the beginning of the book, but I found the theater history of "Tommers" along with its social significance/relevance (which is a large part of the book) the most interesting feature of the book. ( )
  bunnyskull | Sep 20, 2006 |
Mr. Furnas, a sociological sleuth, traces the myth of Uncle Tom to its sources in American history. He also unravels the invidious consequences of this myth, and exposes the factual absurdities and logical chaos upon which it rests. How frequent was the runaway slave and what prompted him? Who was the ""typical"" plantation owner and his overseer? The beliefs, still prevalent today, that Negroes form a racial entity, that Negroes were ""better off"" in their native Africa, that Negroes gain from the admixture of white blood, that Negroes are nearer to the ""animal nature"" than white men are, that the Negro soul is ""simpler"" and held in some ""special"" regard in Heaven all such pernicious, unfounded notions spring if not directly from Uncle Tom's Cabin then at least from its heritage. Mr. Furnas has done an immense service in the struggle against racial prejudice and stereotype thinking in general. He writes with humor and conviction and should attract the thoughtful, liberal reader.
 
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