Josiah Henson biography
Josiah Henson was born into slavery June 15, 1789, in Port Tobacco, Maryland. In 1828, Henson became a preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church and was able to earn money to buy his freedom. His master took the money, but then raised the price to $1,000. In 1830 Henson fled to Canada with his family where he became involved in the Underground Railroad, leading over 200 slaves to freedom.
Abolitionist, minister. Born into slavery June 15, 1789, in Port Tobacco, Maryland, Henson witnessed frequent abuses to his family. Henson's father received a severe beating for striking a white man who was trying to sexually assault Henson's mother. Henson's father never recovered from the incident, and was sold to an owner in Alabama. Henson's brother and sisters were also sold off one by one, as was his mother. Through several business exchanges made with various owners, Henson eventually landed in the hands of owner Isaac Riley in Maryland.
Riley saw Henson's potential, and moved him from laborer to market man. In this position, proved his morality and obedience to Riley, who allwed henson to begin attending Christian sermons. During one particular sermon, Henson came into contact with an anti-slavery preacher, and was exposed to the abolitionist movement. In 1811, Henson was allowed to marry another slave, Charlotte.
In 1825, Riley went bankrupt and had to sell his farm. Henson and 22 other slaves were sold to Riley's brother, Amos, in Kentucky. Riley made Henson promise to deliver himself and the other slaves safely to Kentucky. Henson kept his word and all were delivered, even though they traveled through the free state of Ohio. In 1828, Henson became a preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church and was able to earn money to buy his freedom. His master took the money, but then raised the price to $1,000.
As Henson tried to raise the money, his new master sold him to a new planter in New Orleans. While traveling to New Orleans with his owner to finish the transaction, the master's son got seriously ill. Henson was charged with bringing his master's son back home, and could have made a run for his freedom. Instead, Henson brought him safely home, with no reward or appreciation. This was the last straw for Henson, and in 1830 he decided to flee to Canada with his wife and children.
On October 28, 1830, Henson and his family settled in Dresden, Ontario. For the next four years, Henson worked as a farm laborer and preacher in the area, and had his oldest son teach him how to read and write. He also became involved in the Underground Railroad, leading over 200 slaves to freedom. In 1842, he developed his own Afro-Canadian community that taught practical skills to his fugitives. In 1849, Henson published his autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself.
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin, a fictional portrayal of slavery in America. Beecher later revealed that one of the novel's main characters, Uncle Tom, was based on Josiah Henson.
This made Henson famous, and for a few years afterward he made the lecture circuit as the "real Uncle Tom."
Henson died on May 5, 1883.