Obama, MLK & the Hartford woman who started it all

lincoln stowe

Lincoln Meets Stowe by Bruno Lucchesi, 2006. Statue located in Mortensen Riverfront Plaza, Hartford, CT 

With all the #SOTU (State of the Union) chatter that has been going on in the last couple of days, we thought today’s #ThrowbackThursday #tbt should be about another Barack Obama moment, his inauguration.

On January 20, 2009, many Americans celebrated the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the United States. In his inauguration, Obama made references to the Gettysburg Address and one of its ideas (“A New Birth of Freedom”) as it set the tone of the event and also marked the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth year.

For his second term, it just so happened that his public inauguration was perfectly aligned with MLK Jr. Day. The double celebration of King’s mark on civil rights and advancement of African-Americans in America and Obama’s second inaugural speech, “We Have Been made For This Moment”, helped Americans reflect on the historical evolution of our country. The path to today was trail blazed by so many before, and those influences certainly included one of significance in Connecticut.

Towards the beginning of the US Civil War, on Tuesday, November 25, 1862, a peculiar meeting occurred between a 51 year-old female writer from Connecticut, whose stature was a mere 4’11”, and the 6’4” President of the United States. It is said that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he remarked, “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” The book he referred to, of course, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an anti-slavery novel published in 1851 and written by Stowe, a teacher and active abolitionist.

While that meeting happened in Washington DC, Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut and spent her last 23 years residing in a Victorian Gothic cottage-style house next to Samuel Clemens (aka “Mark Twain”) in the prestigious (at the time) “Nook Farm” area of Hartford, Connecticut. Today the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is open to the public for touring and continues to use Stowe’s life and works to inspire and encourage people to be committed to social justice and make a positive change in the world.

Without the events that occurred during those times, and perhaps even directly related to the writing of Stowe, the inauguration of America’s first black President may have never happened.

Take the time this MLK weekend and visit one of Hartford’s cherished historical venues, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, located just west of downtown, off Farmington Ave. Plan a visit and listen to the calling of a simple woman who used her talents to change the world. Today, the HBStowe Center still encourages those who have a voice to use it and stand up for equality and for those not able to speak on their own. On MLK Day, the Stowe Center is offering free tours all day and a noon-time special B.Y.O.Lunch talk on “The Beloved Community,” where participants discuss how King’s work relates to today and ways to work towards justice.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
77 Forest Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Phone: 860-522-9258, info@stowecenter.org
Twitter: @HBStoweCenter


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