41 years a slave; 53 a Free Man. The Inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin
His name was Josiah Henson. He was born into slavery in 1789 in Maryland. He escaped in 1830 and made it to Canada. He started a settlement and school for other fugitive slaves.
A name not as well known as Harriett Beacher Stowe. But his book, is widely acknowledged to be the source document from which she wrote her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. His book was first published in 1849. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852. In fact, in later editions, Henson changed his title to the book on the right.
I came across it while doing research for one of my books. I was focused on George Washington and the speech he gave on the Ides, the 15th of March 1783 to quell a mutiny among his officer corps at Newburgh NY. But the interesting thing about writing the Time Patrol books is that they take me in completely unexpected directions. I became interested in Washington’s slave and cook, Hercules, who was, technically, the first White House chef, although there was no White House yet. He also ran away eventually. But it got me to thinking about sacrifice. About how often the smallest act could lead to more significant events. Based on feedback from readers, the most powerful of the six storylines in Ides of March is the one where he has a presence, even though he wasn’t even born yet in 1783. Such is the conundrum of time travel.
I will leave you with Henson’s own words:
“’I will conclude my narrative by simply recording my gratitude, heartfelt and inexpressible, to God, and to many of my fellow-men, for the vast improvement in my condition, both physical and mental; for the great degree of comfort with which I am surrounded; for the good I have been enabled to effect; for the light which has risen upon me; for the religious privileges I enjoy, and the religious hopes I am permitted to cherish; for the prospects opening to my children, so different from what they might have been; and, finally, for the cheering expectation of benefiting not only the present, but many future generations of my race’.”
Originally published at www.writeitforward.com on April 18, 2016.