“It has been spread abroad that ‘Uncle Tom' is coming, and that is what has brought you here. Now allow me to say that my name is not Tom, and never was Tom, and that I do not want to have any other name inserted in the newspapers for me than my own. My name is Josiah Henson, always was, and always will be.” Josiah Henson, Glasgow, Scotland, 1877 (from Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life)
Josiah Henson was a man of his time who was ahead of his time. He always tried to "do the right thing" even when it looked to everyone else like he was wrong. He found his strength in something greater than himself and always worked to improve the lives of those about him. When his masters betrayed him it was fate that showed the need for freedom and faith that guided the way.
Though he fled to Canada he lead in the creation of a school to teach vocational skills to newly freed Black people on a settlement that would become the home of 500 people and a station on the Underground Railroad known as the Dawn Settlement. It is now Dresden, Ontario.
Much like the stories of other Blacks and African Canadians who have been obscured over time, the achievements of Josiah Henson have also been diminished. Separating Henson’s identity from the literary character of Uncle Tom allows us to reclaim the legacy of his life’s work and acknowledge the importance of this work.