The Real Uncle Tom, Josiah Henson, is a Black Hero


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He inspired the story ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, but he was no ‘Uncle Tom.’

By Manseen Logan,

Note: This article is part of Blavity’s #MakingHistoryWhileBlack Black History Month series, where we are highlighting unsung historical black figures whose personal stories are deserving of more prominence.

When we call someone an “Uncle Tom,” we’re usually not saying it as a compliment. We reserve the name for Black conservativeFox News commentators and skin folks who clearly ain’t kinfolks. However, as it turns out, the real-life Uncle Tom, Josiah Henson, wasn’t an “Uncle Tom” at all.

Henson’s story was unintentionally overshadowed by the 1865 classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the book to show Christian America the ugly controversial truths about slavery. In Stowe’s story, Uncle Tom acts as a moral overly forgiving slave, with an unyielding loyalty and compassion for his master.

The character’s blind benevolence in the face of immense cruelty makes most Black folks gag. At the same time, the book is credited for sparking the American Civil War that eventually ended slavery. In her subsequent book, A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe admitted that the famed character wasn’t pulled from her imagination. Uncle Tom was partially constructed using stories taken from Henson’s autobiography The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, published in 1849

Full article here

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