Josiah Henson

Josiah Henson (June 15, 1789 – May 5, 1883) was an authorabolitionist, and minister. Born into slavery in Charles County, Maryland, he escaped to Ontario, Canada in 1830, and founded a settlement and laborer’s school for other fugitive slaves at Dawn, near Dresden in Kent County. At the time of his arrival, Ontario was known as the Province of Upper Canada (U.C.), becoming the Province of Canada in 1841, then Ontario in 1867, all within Henson’s lifetime there. Henson’s autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849), is widely believed to have inspired the character of the fugitive slave, George Harris, in Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), who returned to Kentucky for his wife and escaped across the Ohio River, eventually to Canada.[1] Following the success of Stowe’s novel, Henson issued an expanded version of his life story in 1858, Truth Stranger Than Fiction. Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life (published Boston: John P. Jewett & Company, 1858). Interest in his life continued, and nearly two decades later, his life story was updated and published as Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson (1876).

Josiah Henson