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.
I saw this fascinating documentary of the same name recently and wanted to read the book behind it. I recommend if you are interested in Josiah Henson that you read the book first. The movie ends when Josiah escapes to Canada, and there's a feeling of a kind of "happy ever after," which was far from the case. Josiah escaped slavery at age 45 and didn't die until he was over 90. He had another whole life as a free man which was fascinating and complicated.
I'm in awe of Josiah Henson and his fortitude, determination, and faith. What an incredible example of surviving and remaining positive against all odds. I'm so glad I read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" this summer, because it figures prominently into this biography. (See my review here.) Harriet Beecher Stowe based the character of Tom on Josiah Henson, and learning about his real life and the broader times and culture here gave me a deeper and richer understanding of the bigger picture.
I knew UTC was popular, but I don't think I really realized until this book how great an influence it had on swaying politics--even changing Lincoln's mind--leading to the eventual dismantling of legal slavery in the US. It made Harriet Beecher Stowe into a lightning rod for criticism, but she never wavered in standing for what she knew was right. She was just one person, but she made a huge difference in the world. I believe we owe her a great debt--and if you haven't read UTC, you owe it to yourself to read it.
Harriet Beecher Stowe and Josiah Henson are my new heroes. Seeing all they did to rescue people inspires me to continue their work today, raising awareness for and helping to fund Operation Underground Railroad or other worthy organizations that rescue trafficked children and adults. Someday on the other side, I hope to shake the hands of these abolitionist pioneers and not be ashamed that I didn't do more to help enslaved people in our modern age.
The next thing I want to do is re-watch that excellent movie "Lincoln" from several years ago to view it with my new understanding of what led up to that pivotal moment that changed the course of our nation. I'm also interested in reading some slave narratives from contemporaries of Josiah.
There are a few pages at the end that I thought were exceptionally good. Letting the author speak for himself:
"There lingers a temptation to make a tenuous connection between Josiah Henson and the end of slavery. If he was the inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the novel sparked the Civil War, and the war led to emancipation, then did not Josiah's story lead to freedom for the slaves?
Of course, no one person, no one story, no one book sparked the Civil War. But Josiah's story represents one of millions of similar stories. He just happened to be one of the very few 'lucky' ones who, by courage and chance, managed to live to tell his tale."
"Neither have we seen the global end of slavery and indentured servitude. Indeed, the 'peculiar institution' still exists in nations such as Mauritania. Six modern nations (India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, North Korea, and Russia) each enslave more than one million people, and sixteen nations still use forced or child labor to produce cotton. W.E.B. Du Bois is also prescient on this point: 'Most men today cannot conceive of a freedom that does not involve somebody's slavery.'" pp 252-253
I highly recommend this book. I believe you'll enjoy it!
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.
A very interesting story that grabbed my attention early and then got lost in the weeds of managing Dawn and the BAI. Also, I didn't find Josiah's connection to Uncle Tom's Cabin that compelling nor did he make the case successfully that his story sparked Beecher Stowe's novel or the Civil War. Really turned off by the ending where he makes grandiose, unsubstantiated claims (like we may still have slavery if it weren't for Uncle Tom's Cabin and the invention of machines to help with agriculture) and just the flat out historical inaccuracy that President Andrew Johnson's administration got the 13th amendment passed through the House of Representatives in January of 1865. Almost dropped it to 2 stars because of that.