Readings of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Slaveholding Brazil

Danilo José Zioni Ferreti, Social Sciences Department, Universidade Federal de São João del-Rei, São João del-Rei, MG, Brazil

In 1852, the North American Harriet Beecher Stowe published the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book, which became one of the most influential novels of the nineteenth century, adopted an anti-slavery stance and was a cause of fierce debate in the United States and in Europe.

Danilo José Zioni Ferretti looks into the circulation and reception of that work’s many versions in slaveholding Brazil’s public space. The author, a professor of History at the Federal University of São João del-Rei (UFSJ), has conducted research in Brazilian, Portuguese and French archives. The study shows that, in Imperial Brazil, Uncle Tom’s Cabin‘s reading had two distinct phases. In the first one, from 1853 to 1876, the book’s circulation was unstable, restricted and occurred through foreign editions, four of which were Portuguese, and there were apprehensions of copies by authorities. In the second phase, from 1876 to 1888, the book held a much higher profile. There were mainly theatrical adaptations, performed by companies that toured many of the country’s cities. The height of Uncle Tom‘s success in Brazil coincided with the growing abolitionist movement in the country, at a time when the work’s influence tended to wane in the Northern hemisphere.

Ferretti focused on the study of the 1853 Portuguese-language edition of Uncle Tom by the French publishing house Rey & Belhatte, which had the widest circulation in Brazil. According to the author, the Portuguese and French contexts – to which both the translator Francisco de Andrade and the Parisian publisher were connected – favored the addition of introductory texts presenting an interpretation of the novel that altered its original political message. If Stowe urged an immediate abolition of slavery, Rey & Belhatte‘s edition suggested the possibility of extending its duration in Portuguese-speaking territories. Thereby, editors and translator strived to lessen Uncle Tom‘s critical potential, which certainly aided the work’s circulation in the slaveholding and Portuguese-speaking world.


ALONSO, Angela. Flores, votos e balas; o movimento abolicionista brasileiro (1868-1888). São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2016.

MEER, Sarah. Uncle Tom Mania: Slavery, Minstrelsy and Transatlantic Culture in the 1850´s. Athens, Georgia: University Georgia Press, 2005.

STOWE, Harriet B. Uncle Toms Cabin. Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852.

To read the article, access

FERRETTI, D. J. Z. A publicação de “A cabana do Pai Tomás” no Brasil escravista. O “momento europeu” da edição Rey e Belhatte (1853). Varia hist. [online]. 2017, vol.33, n.61, pp.189-223. [viewed 24 May 2017]. ISSN 0104-8775. DOI: 10.1590/0104-87752017000100009. Available from:

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Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

FERRETTI, D. J. Z Readings of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Slaveholding Brazil [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2017 [viewed ]. Available from:


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