Henson, Josiah

Henson, Josiah, 1789–1883, black slave, reputedly the basis of the character of Uncle Tom in Uncle Tom's Cabin, b. Charles co., Md. In 1825 he faithfully led a party of his master's slaves from Maryland, across free territory in Ohio, to Kentucky. Tricked out of the freedom he had purchased and threatened with being sold in the South, he escaped with his wife and children in 1830. He became a leader of the community of escaped slaves at Dresden, Upper Canada (now Ontario). Henson, who had become a Methodist Episcopal preacher while in Kentucky, traveled widely, visiting England three times. His autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson (1849), was enlarged in 1858 as Truth Stranger than Fiction and in 1879 as “Truth is Stranger than Fiction”; the later editions contained introductions by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

See B. Gysin, To Master—a Long Goodnight (1946); H. Blesby, Josiah, the Maimed Fugitive (1873, repr. 1969).

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