Who was Uncle Tom?
I have heard so many remarks in reference to the name Uncle Tom used in my lifetime. That I felt it necessary to go and do some research regarding the derogatory use of this mans name. Sometimes we use names, words and phrases to get our views across and express our opinions, without really ever knowing the background history of these things.
Words are powerful and by us not knowing or understanding them we could actually be giving our power away. Always have a background knowledge and a reason as to why we say and do things.
Here is what I have uncovered about Uncle Tom.
Uncle Tom was a character that White folks would use to discredit a former and successful African man who ancestors were taken into captivity. In 1789 Josiah Henson was sadly born into a life of slavery. He had warrior blood in his genes, as the only recollection he had of his father is that of one who fought for his rights. His father had lost an ear and exhibited the scars of a man who could not stand by and see his wife disrespected by a wicked overseer.
From a young age Josiah experienced hardship, at one stage he was torn away from his mother only to be returned to her due to ill health. He was returned to a wicked and evil massah by the name of Isaac Riley.
His Massah lived a life of debauchery that would eventually lead him to become a man in dept who had to end up selling most of his slaves. Josiah was sent to Riley's brother and there he met free slaves, his chance meeting with them would leave him with a hunger to be free. He earned enough money to buy his freedom but Mr Riley did not make life easy for him, he tricked Josiah on more than one occasion stealing his money and his liberty. Henson was too valuable, to a person like Isaac Riley, so he would not let him go. This is when Josiah Henson decided to take his family and secure his liberty by escaping to Canada.
Josiah and his family faced great hardships, danger, hunger and uncertainty in their efforts for freedom. On the 28th October 1830 they reached Canada, they were free.
Thereafter Josiah Henson would risk his life and limb in order to go back and help free other slaves. He would search for fugitive slaves, resting by day and travelling by night. They received help from Indians and some good white folk. Not everybody agreed with slavery.
Josiah Henson helped over 100 other slaves escape to freedom to Canadian soil via the Underground Railroad.
Henson also felt it appropriate to establish education where, Boys and girls would be taught mechanical and domestic arts, enabling them to go on and teach their own people the same trades. In 1842 a school was established.
A woman named Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe was interested in Josiah's story and wrote "Uncle Toms Cabin." because of the impact her book had in regards to slavery and its demand on the US to allow equality and the Abolishment of slavery.
This is where whites folks would abuse the story and take away all of the goodness of Josiah Henson and his life and depict him as some docile, physically weak and aged, massa-loving ignoramus. Hence the reason why so many people use the term Uncle Tom.
Josiah Henson was a hero. He went on to establish great friendships with people that would help his cause, that of freeing and giving slaves liberty. He was extended invitations from the President and Roylty.