Art of the Month

If Kindness Were A Person, I think this is what it would look like.  I saw a Facebook post where someone listed the accomplishments of Josiah Henson. It spoke to me.

For those who do not know this face, this is the man who inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Henson was born into slavery in Maryland. His father was sold off when Henson was a child. The young boy’s memory of his father was the day he was beaten with a whip and had his ear cut off.  The rest of his siblings were sold off, and he fortunately was able to go with his mother.

As Henson worked as a slave, he became a preacher and good businessman who was trusted by his owner. Isaac Riley, the slave owner abused the young boy physically and treated him harshly.

Despite the hardship Henson learned all he could about business and God’s word. This enabled him to travel around and preach while handling business matters for his owner.  Henson tried to buy his freedom with money he had earned preaching, but Riley swindled him and tried to sell him down south.

Circumstances smiled on Henson, as the young man who was to take him to sell came down with malaria. A kindhearted Henson cared for the young man so he wouldn’t die.

In 1830 Henson escaped to Canada with his wife and two youngest children. He started a freedman settlement called the British American Institute. It became one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad. Henson guided 118 slaves to freedom. 

With the help of Samuel Atkins Eliot, Henson wrote the story of his life, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, which was published in 1849.

On one of Henson’s trips to America he was invited to visit an American woman who wanted to hear about his life in slavery. There he met Harriett Beecher Stowe and told of some of the things he had experienced.

Over the next couple of years, she wrote a story of her own. It first ran as stories in the National Era on June 5, 1851. Later it was published as a book, in two volumes.  It became a hot topic selling more than 300,000 copies (And Stowe did not share any of her profits with Henson.)

After the Civil War Henson toured the US on a 100-city tour. He also  met with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and years later met with President Rutherford B Hayes at the White House.

He died in 1883.

(This information came from The Smithsonian Magazine and Wikipedia)

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