It is the best known book about American slavery, and was so incendiary upon its first publication in 1852 that it actually ignited the social flames that led to Civil War less than a decade later. What began as a series of sketches for the Cincinnati abolitionist newspaper The National Era scandalized the North, was banned in the South, and ultimately became the bestselling novel of the 19th century. Today, controversy over this melodramatic tale of the dignified slave Tom, the brutal plantation owner Simon Legree, and Stowe's other vividly drawn characters continues, as modern scholars debate the work's newly appreciated feminist undertones and others decry it as the source of enduring stereotypes about African Americans. As one of the most influential books in U.S. history, it deserves to be read by all students of literature and of the American story. American abolitionist and author HARRIET BEECHER STOWE (1811-1896) was born in Connecticut, daughter of a Congregationalist minister and sister to abolitionist theologian Henry Ward Beecher. She wrote more than two dozen books, both fiction and nonfiction.