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7 Jun 2013

A new look at “Uncle Tom”

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June 7, 2013 Category: Local Posted by:

With EgoPo’s production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: An Unfortunate History, the classic novel gets a reading that might keep White 

Supremacists up at night. 


By Denise Clay


When then-Sen. Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth on White supremacist websites around the world due to the perception that a Black man with the power of the Presidency would enslave whites as a first official act.


As someone who spent a lot of time among White Supremacist groups when I was working in Reading, Pa., I can only imagine how freaked out people were there when Senator Obama became President Obama. They probably started stacking up on guns and ammo to try and survive the onslaught…


Needless to say, this didn’t happen. There aren’t white folks on plantations working for black slavemasters. I don’t think that such a thing ever presented itself on President Obama’s radar and he would have probably distanced himself from the person who suggested it if it had.


But just for the sake of argument, what do you think that slavery would have looked like if the roles were reversed?


That’s the premise behind EgoPo Production’s play, Uncle Tom’s Cabin: An Unfortunate History. The play, which is being performed at the Plays and Players Theater, in Center City, is based on the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher-Stowe and tells the story of Uncle Tom, a God-fearing, good-natured slave whose refusal to run away from his masters or fight, led to his name becoming a slur that blacks use against each other.


Usually, when the play is done, the slaves are black and the masters are white.


In this case, it’s just the opposite. It’s whites being enslaved…and blacks doing the enslaving.


And the thing is, it’s still just as inhumane no matter who does it.


I’ll admit, as someone who spent a lot of time in Klan Country, it was initially a little off-putting.


But it was well acted, so I was able to get past it. 


Many of the actors played dual roles, but as Uncle Tom, Ed Swidey showed a dignity that his circumstances probably made tough. Langston Darby’s Simon Legree was well done considering he was portraying someone whose name is synonymous with evil. Steven Wright’s Augustine was also very good as a man who was forced to grow up. 


The women were also great. Nia Ali’s “Eva” filled her role as a guiding light well. Tiffany Bacon went from abolitionist to Southern Belle seamlessly as Mrs. Shelby, one of Uncle Tom’s original owners and Marie Augustine, the one who wanted to make sure not to “spoil” the slaves. 


Uncle Tom’s Cabin: An Unfortunate History runs until June 9 at Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey St. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. There is a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. and Sunday performances are at 5 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $32 and can be purchased by calling 267-273-1414 or online at


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