This is an impressive study of the role "Uncle Tom's Cabin" played, and continues to play, in American literature and race relations.
"Mightier Than the Sword" starts quietly with a look at how Harriet Beecher Stowe accumulated the material for this novel, speculation on whom the characters were based upon, and a heavy dose of the standard commentary about Stowe's impact on the abolition movement and the American Civil War.
The second part of the book rises to a crescendo, examining the almost accidental marketing of the book through multiple pirated reprintings, theatre productions, movie productions, and an astounding seventy-seven years of world-wide popularity.
We learn that highly-educated 19th century Blacks like W.E.B. duBois, Frederick Douglas and James Weldon Johnson, praised Harriet Beecher-Stowe's efforts at consciousness-raising.
The denouement looks at the backlash of the 1960's, when patience with Victorian story telling was very limited. Uncle Tom's gentle strength was no longer in fashion and his name became used as an epithet.
Reynolds winds up his study by noting that 21st century opinion is moving towards an appreciation of the contributions of talented Americans once labeled "Uncle Toms," including Booker T. Washington, Louis Armstrong, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.
"Mightier Than The Sword" is carefully researched and well-thought-out. The book provides superb reading and discussion material for book clubs, church groups, college-level Sociology, Pop-Culture, and History students.
The moral of this tale is that the cultural and social norms of each generation of readers influences that generation's perceptions of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." One hundred and sixty years after it was first published, it remains an important American milestone. No matter how much praise or how much scorn is heaped upon the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is still read and still taken seriously.