“The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, as Narrated by Himself.” Precursor to Uncle Tom’s Cabin
“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.”
It is commonly accepted that Josiah Henson’s autobiography was the source for Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. So much so that later in life, he changed the title to: Autobiography of Josiah Henson: An Inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom.
He was a remarkable man who fought against overwhelming odds, not only to free himself, but to help others.His story was the most intriguing one among all my research for Ides of March (free on all ebook platforms)
As usual, I was focused on something else: George Washington’s speech to his mutinous officers on the Ides of March 1783. I came across Josiah Henson’s book. It drew me in so much, that it changed what I was writing. To tell you much more would be too much of a spoiler; regardless, I recommend reading Mr. Henson’s book to grasp a society we are not many generations removed from. And remember that people are not that much different, both good and bad.
I fear too often when we look at history or other cultures, we think those people are somehow ‘different’ than we are. That what happened then or there is out of the realm of possibilities for us. Whether it be pre-Civil War America, the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, or any era or place. Given the right circumstances, people can do extraordinary things, both good and bad. These lessons are a driving force that keep me writing, trying to bring history to life and showing the ethical and moral issues that penetrate all aspects of it!
Originally published at bobmayer.com on April 21, 2017.