A Plausible Man

The True Story of the Escaped Slave Who Inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin

The remarkable story of the man behind the book that helped spark the Civil War, in a stunning historical detective story

“I love this research.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr., at a Hutchins Center presentation of Susanna Ashton’s findings

In December of 1850, a faculty wife in Brunswick, Maine, named Harriet Beecher Stowe hid a fugitive slave in her house. While John Andrew Jackson stayed for only one night, he made a lasting impression: drawing from this experience, Stowe began to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of the most influential books in American history and the novel that helped inspire the overthrow of slavery in the United States.

A Plausible Man unfolds as a historical detective story, as Susanna Ashton combs obscure records for evidence of Jackson’s remarkable flight from slavery to freedom, his quest to liberate his enslaved family, and his emergence as an international advocate for abolition. This fresh and original work takes us through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the restoration of white supremacy—where we last glimpse Jackson losing his freedom again on a Southern chain gang.

In the spirit of Tiya Miles’s prizewinning All That She Carried and Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught, Susanna Ashton breathes life into a striving and nuanced American character, one unmistakably rooted in the vast sweep of nineteenth-century America.


“A scholarly detective story about a man who would inspire a world-changing book.”
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