There are some books that are just good reads, and then there are others that fundamentally change the course of American history.
Business Insider compiled a list of books — including novels, memoirs, nonfiction works, and photography collections — that led to policy changes or a larger awareness of political issues.
Here are a few literary works (organized by publication year) that moved the needle in powerful ways:
„Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass“ by Frederick Douglass (1845)
One of the most famous autobiographies by a former slave, „Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass“ documents Douglass‘ fight for his freedom and horrific abuse by slave-owners.
The book was not only important to the abolitionist movement in the US, but also in the Uk and Ireland, where Douglass delivered lectures and met with key anti-slavery figures.
„Uncle Tom’s Cabin“ by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
An anti-slavery novel by author Harriet Beecher Stowe, „Uncle Tom’s Cabin“ tells the story of a slave in the 19th century who saves the life of a white woman named Eva. Her father purchases Tom, and from there, the novel depicts the brutal realities of slavery.
„Uncle Tom’s Cabin“ is widely credited with laying the groundwork for the American Civil War. At the same time, it contributed to the proliferation of harmful African-American stereotypes.
„How the Other Half Lives“ by Jacob Riis (1890)
In the late 19th century, photographer Jacob Riis documented New Yorkers who lived in slums and squalid tenement buildings in „How the Other Half Lives.“ With his photos, he compiled graphic descriptions, sketches, statistics, that illustrated how low-income residents get by.
The photo collection inspired several reforms that improved conditions for the working poor, including the New York Tenement House Act and other legislation that set safety standards. It also served as a basis for future „muckraking“ journalism.
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Source: Business insider