“Who you calling a Uncle Tom” Black history edition!
The Story of Josiah Henson, the Real Inspiration for ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin
I’m originally from the Sunshine State Florida. I grew up in the times where it was safe to go to the freeze cup lady house, a dollar bought you a hot sausage, bag of chips and a jungle juice. We played outside for hours, and would jokingly say things like your breath so stink I can smell you from a mile away, or If you stepped on a crack you break your mommas back (the universal joke in the 80s) and two of the worse things to be called was African booty scratcher or a Haitian, we even knew what it meant to be called an Uncle Tom. Now bare with me readers I promise I”m going somewhere. Although we were just kids If we picked up a book or were taught history with all facts instead of partial we would have been told were not all considered African American, Christopher Columbus was not a hero but a murderer, and that Haiti became the world's first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in the early 19th century. I laugh at the innocence of the time and yet ashamed how I used words that should have been meant for honor into shame, ”The irony”. Uncle Tom:
a black man considered to be excessively obedient or servile to white people. Or a person regarded as betraying their cultural or social allegiance.
But the real story or should I say book was based upon Josiah Henson a former slave born on a farm near Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland. When he was a boy, his father was punished for standing up to a slave owner, for which he received one hundred lashes. As a child, he was sold to Isaac Riley, who later appointed him superintendent of the farm at an unusually young age because of Henson’s strength and intelligence. Was this the qualifying factor of a Uncle Tom,a slave not a free man who was told by a man who could take his life and the life of those he loved at any moment with no consequence? Sounds like a survivor to me but I’ll let you draw your own conclusion. U.S. Fiction has shaped much of how America has viewed the lives of enslaved Americans. From "The color purple”," to "Amistad," to "Roots," the public imagination has evolved from seeing slaves as happy servants to victims of history to vigilantes who demanded that the country live up to its core beliefs. But "Uncle Tom," is said to be the most enduring fictional slave. He's the title character in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the novel written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852. The books intent was to rally the moral sentiments of whites against the horrors of slavery, and it succeeded. But the character of "Uncle Tom" has become synonymous with servility and self-hatred. Author Harriet Beecher Stowe was angered by the passage of the fugitive slave bill in 1850 that required northerners who were protecting blacks from - on the Underground Railroad. It required them to return them to the South and to slavery, and she decided to write a book to combat that influence.
To do her research, she looked into slave narratives, which were accounts of very real slaves who had escaped along the Underground Railroad into freedom, one of whom was Josiah Henson. She used a variety of these texts to put together the characters in "Uncle Tom's Cabin." However the real inspiration Josiah was far from the Uncle Tom described and defined as we know it. Growing up I assumed like many Uncle Tom was a real person but never read the book and the protrayl of the character was nothing like I read.
I was right and wrong he was more...........
Josiah was a underground Railroad Conductor, Author and Runaway slave which are just a few of his accomplishments. I hope this article encourages readers to research and learn facts that are now so easily accessible, even If all the facts of African American history has not been taught it is a responsibility to search for the truth. And stop using words that should bring pride and hope reduced to insults and mockery.
”I am an Uncle Tom”
More Josiah facts below......
🔅Born into slavery in 1796 on a farm near Port Tobacco, Henson witnessed the assault and brutal beatings of both parents. Along with his wife and four children, he escaped slavery in 1830, heading to Canada where he founded a settlement for escaped slaves and served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. His autobiography served as a key text for Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
🔅He founded the British American Institute in 1842, an Afro-Canadian community and industrial school intended as a refuge for escaped slaves.
🔅Henson attempted to buy his freedom, Riley cheated him and made plans to sell him south. Fearing separation from his family, Henson fled north with his wife and children the summer of 1830.