Josiah Henson Biography

Minister, Activist (1789–1883)
Escaped slave and minister Josiah Henson became involved in the Underground Railroad, leading slaves to freedom and developing his own Afro-Canadian community.


Josiah Henson was born into slavery June 15, 1789, in Port Tobacco, Maryland. While still a slave, in 1828 Henson became a preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church and was eventually able to earn the $350 he needed 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 nearly 200 slaves to freedom. His autobiography was published in 1849 and was a primary influence for Harriet Beacher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Henson died on May 5, 1883. On the 100th anniversary of Henson's death, he was commemorated with a postage stamp in Canada, making him the first black person in that country to receive the honor. 

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