The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story That Sparked the Civil Warby Published 15 May 2018
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A major literary moment: after being lost to history for more than a century, The Road to Dawn uncovers the incredible story of the real-life slave who inspired Uncle Tom's Cabin.
-He rescued 118 enslaved people
-He won a medal at the first World's Fair in London
-Queen Victoria invited him to Windsor Castle
-Rutherford B. Hayes entertained him at the White House
-He helped start a freeman settlement, called Dawn, that was known as one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad
-He was immortalized in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the novel that Abraham Lincoln jokingly blamed for sparking the Civil War
But before all this, Josiah Henson was brutally enslaved for more than forty years.
Author-filmmaker Jared A. Brock retraces Henson's 3,000+ mile journey from slavery to freedom and re-introduces the world to a forgotten figure of the Civil War era, along with his accompanying documentary narrated by Hollywood actor Danny Glover.
The Road to Dawn is a ground-breaking biography lauded by leaders at the NAACP, the Smithsonian, senators, authors, professors, the President of Mauritius, and the 21st Prime Minister of Canada, and will no doubt restore a hero of the abolitionist movement to his rightful place in history.
"The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story That Sparked the Civil War" Reviews
'The Road to Dawn' was a good read, a reminder of how distorted humankind's perception of justice can be combined with the inspiring life of a great man.
The style of the book is easy to read, but obviously thoroughly researched, with lots of references and footnotes to add extra information and clarify accuracy. It follows the life of Josiah Henson, a black slave whose character was part of the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom. I appreciated the honesty with which his story was told - the author didn't glorify him or avoid inclusion of his mistakes and shortcomings, but he painted a picture of a man who had a heart for his fellows, a compassion and noble ambition for those mistreated, a respect for others, and a thankfulness for the opportunities he had in life. It was inspiring to read of his endless labours - speaking, traveling, fundraising, and at home - and yet none of them were for the benefit of himself. His faith was the core of his life.
It was also interesting to learn more about 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' the statistics around its publication and the impact it had to raise awareness and bring sympathy.
I really appreciated the author's epilogue and comparison to present day slavery in all its forms. It was sobering, but refreshing to hear someone speak the truth instead of glibly saying slavery ended years ago. His call to honour Josiah Henson was. It was also cool to see how the title was woven into the story, right up until the end.
Personally, I was inspired by this story to be the person that steps out for others, to live like God is real and lives matter, and to have a greater appreciation for the freedom I enjoy. It wasn't an easy read - there's violence and hard to swallow facts, but it was a good reminder. There were a few rare uses of minor swear words, if that offends anyone. Overall, I'm glad to have read this book and learned more about history and the man Josiah Henson. I'm grateful to the author for providing me a free copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.
GNab This Biography of Josiah Henson, a man who proved the ideal to pattern her hero in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, takes up where that classic leaves off. Josiah, though not able to read or write until he was an adult, managed to enhance the lives of nearly everyone he met. He managed the marketing and the fields for his owner for years, and once he and his family escaped and made their way to Canada he took that innate intelligence and used it to help other blacks make the transition into an independent life. I love that he was able to do the World's Fair in London, and travel all over the US and Canada preaching his common-sense approach to surviving as independent, self reliant persons in a world of whites. I especially loved the school at Dawn. Think what this man could have achieved if he had been allowed an education!
This is a book I will treasure, and will keep in my research shelf. Jared A. Brock is an author I will follow.
I received a free electronic copy of this biography from Netgalley, Jared A. Brock, and Perseus Books, PublicAffairs, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
pub date May 15, 2018
Perseus Books, PublicAffairs
"The Road to Dawn" is a biography about Josiah Henson, who lived from 1789 to 1883. He was born a slave in Maryland and remained a slave for 41 years. In real danger of being sold to a brutal master in the Deep South, he ran away to Canada with his wife and four young children. This was before the Underground Railroad, so he had to forge his own way north with occasional help from kindly strangers. As a preacher concerned for his fellow ex-slaves, Josiah raised money and convinced other ex-slaves to build a town (Dawn) with a school (British American Institute) to help former slaves build a new, prosperous life. He created a successful farm out of wilderness, preached a circuit, encouraged the town's development, raised funds for the school, dictated a popular memoir, and told many famous people (including Harriet Beecher Stowe) his story and about the horrors of slavery.
The author used Josiah Henson's memoirs, newspaper articles, lawsuit records, and such to find details about his life. In addition to talking about Josiah's time as a slave, the author included stories about how cruel slavery could be in general. Even once free, Josiah had a hard life as people who resented his influence and his methods of helping others repeatedly tried to ruin his reputation. The author focused on Josiah's fundraising tours and the battles waged over who got to run the British American Institute--which Josiah never did, though he raised funds for it.
The author also talked about Harriet Beecher Stowe's books and the Civil War. Though Stowe loosely modeled Uncle Tom on Josiah Henson, Josiah's life was different than the character's in many ways. I realized this, but I also had expected an inspirational story. Instead, the first part was hard to read because the author wanted to paint a vivid, graphic picture of the torture slaves sometimes endured. The second part was just depressing. Rather than focusing on all the good done, it focused on a good man being torn down while giving his all to help others. Overall, I'd recommend this book, but just realize that the whole thing is a sad story.
I received a free ebook review copy of this book from the publisher.
Josiah Hensen, a man every Canadian should know about!
This book is about the real life of Josiah Henson, a former slave, who was made famous by Harriet Beecher Stowe's infamous Uncle Tom's Cabin, the book which was influential in provoking anti-slavery anger in the northern United States and Britain against the American South. Josiah Hensen is the inspiration behind the character of Uncle Tom, and many people called him Uncle Tom throughout his life, though this book makes it clear that he is not Uncle Tom, but his own person with his own name and unique story.
This book "The Road to Dawn" can be broken up into a a couple parts. The first part introduces the culture that Josiah was born into as a child of African slaves in Maryland, and follows Josiah as he grows up a slave and what leads him to eventually escape for freedom in Canada. The second part gives a detailed history of Josiah in Canada as a Fugitive Slave and Free Man and what he did with the rest of his long life.
I enjoyed the first part of the book the most as it was fast-paced and somewhat exciting. The author gave an eye-opening and bare-bones look at the slave culture in America prior to the Civil War. It points out how the blacks were oppressed not only physically, and emotionally but mentally and psychologically as well.
The author shows this particularly well by writing this;
"Slave owners discouraged the recording of the birthdates of the slaves, because one of the most effective tools of slave oppression was ignorance. A slave with knowledge of the wider world is a slave who can cause problems. A slave with a memory of the past and vision of the future is dangerous."
I appreciate the thoughtful look as Josiah wrestled with his conscience over whether to escape or not, showing how the ingrained cultural thinking and Christianity of the day influenced his thoughts and actions, as shown by this the author here:
"On one hand, for a slave in his relatively privileged and powerful position, it was an entirely rational choice to 'get along' and make the best of his situation until he could legally change it. On the other hand, he knew slavery was fundamentally evil and should be abolished. Josiah weighed the benefits of accepting his slave status and working within the system to improve his family's lot versus the risks of actively resisting. It was not an easy choice."
The second part after he escaped to Canada was harder for me to read through, as there was a lot of politics and whatnot as Josiah endeavored to build up a community called Dawn in Canada, that would help educate others that had escaped to freedom. I was glad that I did read through it all and am impressed by the author as he certainly did his homework! He was able to show that it wasn't an easy road to start living free, by any stretch and there was lots of opposition and betrayals, peppered with faithful support and admiration. Josiah's life was no fairy-tale, there wasn't a Happily Ever After once he reached freedom. He experience a great amount of heartbreak and toil for naught--He never achieved what he had envisioned Dawn to be for his people. However, as we read through his life story we see that he used his freedom well as he had promised he would.
He left a lasting and impressive legacy, one of honor, kindness, generosity and selflessness, that begs us to pick up where he left off!
In all I would rate this book 3.5 stars as I enjoyed the content and the history and learning about Josiah, however found the latter half of the book to be rather bogged down, confusing and hard to read at times. I do hope that Josiah Hensen becomes a nationally known name, and that his story is taught to our children in schools across Canada.
Growing up about 30 minutes from Dresden, Ont., visiting the Uncle Tom's Cabin historic site in high school, and reading a long-lost copy of The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, I thought I had a good grasp on the story of this former slave and, as the subtitle states, "the story that sparked the Civil War."
Then I read The Road to Dawn by Jared A. Brock where I discovered there was more to Henson's story than I'd grew up believing.
Brock's interest in Henson began when he bought his wife a book she said she'd wanted to read: Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
"She read it, and was moved by it, and I decided to do a little more research...I was surprised to discover that her novel was based on the life of a real man named Josiah Henson," writes Brock, who made his own visit to Henson's Canadian home. He also began extensively researching Henson's life. (A side note: Brock and co-author Aaron Alford shared a precis of Henson's story in the book Bearded Gospel Men.)
Brock starts with the well-known story of Henson, who grew up as a slave in Maryland and, due to a natural intelligence, became a trusted overseer for his master, Isaac Riley. This trust led to Henson being chosen to lead a group of slaves to the plantation of Riley's brother in Kentucky.Yet, for all this trust and goodwill, Henson is mistreated and cheated. When he finds out his new master plans sell Henson's family separately, he decides to escape to Canada and freedom.
Throughout Henson's story, Brock doesn't shy away from describing the brutality of slavery and notes how even those who showed kindness to their slaves still found their compassion restricted by an oppressive and pervasive system. After Henson arrives in Canada, Brock shows how Henson's trusting nature is frequently taken advantage of as he tries to establish a self-supporting community for escaped slaves.
This is where I discovered more about Henson's life. At the Dawn settlement, the community near Dresden he founded (and is buried), Henson endures the self-serving machinations of (sometimes) well-meaning abolitionists and an onslaught of attacks by fellow escapees who disagreed with his methods. Brock shows that, along with his tendency to be to trusting, much of Henson's problems came from his lack of a formal education and financial acumen, which weren't uncommon for slaves. What I found surprising were the unfounded accusations that Henson was profiting from both the Dawn settlement and the separate British-American Institute (BAI) training school.
While packed with facts about Henson, slavery, pre-Civil War American society, pre- and post-Confederation Canada, The Road to Dawn reads like a novel, not history book. The style keeps the reader engaged and wanting more, and his footnotes provide a good trail of books and documents about these topics for further reading. I only wish, especially when trying to follow the trail of the trials around Dawn and the BAI, there was a list of key players available for reference.
Uncle Tom's Cabin sounded a call against slavery that led to the Civil War. In The Road to Dawn, Brock provides a clarion call to remedy the effects of racism and slavery that exist 135 years after Henson's death. He calls for, among a list of items, a change in name of the Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic site to the Josiah Henson National Historic Site, a National Underground Railway Museum and financial reparations by Canada, Britain and the United States.
One point Brock made, "we have yet to see a person of color adorn our currency," has been fulfilled with the 2018 release of the $10 bill featuring Nova Scotia civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond. Perhaps there still is hope on The Road to Dawn.