DVD Reviews

“Vera Jiji has resurrected a gem of American and African American history in her production of George Aiken’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. While the historical impact of the work has remained in our memories, so has the tarnish the play experienced in its decline in popularity and changing representations of Black people. In a short and powerful production Jiji has returned luster and value to the work in a way that allows contemporary audiences to experience the play’s original import. A must see for students, scholars, and serious lovers of history.”

R. L’Heureux Lewis, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology & Black Studies Program
The City College of New York of The City University of New York

“Based on the theatrical adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by actor, playwright, and theatre manager George L. Aiken (1830-1876), this film offers a 50-minute version of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s controversial novel. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century, exposed the brutal institution of slavery and its effects on American society, politics, and culture. Within a few months after Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in book form, dramatic adaptations began to appear. The most famous was Aiken’s play, which opened in Troy, New York on 15 November 1852 and was performed throughout the United States for the next thirty-five years. As executive producer Vera Jiji suggests in her introductory comments, more people in the nineteenth century saw the play than read the novel. Jiji’s imaginative film, a skillful condensation of Aiken’s play, combines dramatic scenes performed by accomplished actors, still images drawn from contemporary paintings, periodicals, and original illustrations from published editions of the novel, and popular songs and hymns of the mid-nineteenth century. The result is a powerful visual and auditory experience which reveals the ongoing appeal of a story that helped cause the United States Civil War.

Susan Belasco, PhD
Professor of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Editor, Stowe in Her Own Time (University of Iowa Press, 2009)
Co-editor, Approaches to Teaching Uncle Tom’s Cabin (MLA, 2000)

“This production isn’t either the ante bellum melodrama or the post-Reconstruction Tom Show that millions of Americans attended between the middle of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. But it’s very intelligently designed, and extremely well acted, and does a remarkable job giving 21st century viewers a way to feel the play’s power.

Stephen Railton, PhD
University of Virginia
Professor, American Literature
Director of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture online archive