Second edition, the first with Harriet Beecher Stowe's introduction, of the memoir of the famous Underground Railroad conductor and leader of the Canadian freeman settlement Dawn.
"I was glad to help such of my old friends as had the spirit to make the attempt to free themselves; and I made more than one trip [...] that some might be enabled to follow in my footsteps."
After a slave owner rescinded his agreement to allow Henson to purchase his freedom, Henson escaped to Canada with his wife and children, the two smallest of whom he carried on his back. There Henson helped found the freeman settlement called Dawn and became an agent on the Underground Railroad.
Henson first dictated his story to Samuel A. Eliot for publication in 1849, published by A.D. Phelps as THE LIFE OF JOSIAH HENSON. Harriet Beecher Stowe read Henson's story while researching for UNCLE TOM'S CABIN. Stowe documented a variety of sources for her novel, asserting Uncle Tom was "not the biography of one man" (letter to editor, INDIANAPOLIS NEWS, 1882). But Henson's name remains tied to the character and the work as a central inspiration: Stowe has written that Henson's life provided her with "many of the finest conceptions and incidents of 'Uncle Tom's' character, in particular the scene where he refuses to free himself by the murder of a brutal master" (1876 letter to Rev. William H. Tilley). This edition is the first to include Stowe's preface: "Among all the singular and interesting records to which the institution of American slavery has given rise, we know of none more striking, more characteristic and instructive, than that of Josiah Henson."
Henson became an international star, almost always introduced as the "real Uncle Tom," about which he had ambiguous feelings. The 1878 edition of his autobiography prints a speech in which he gently corrects his audience: "I do not want to have any other name inserted in the newspapers for me than my own." A slave narrative of major significance.
Read more: Stowe, Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin; Winks, The Blacks in Canada: A History.
Boston: John P. Jewett and company, 1858. 12mo. 7.5'' x 4''. Original full brown cloth, elaborately blind-stamped boards, gilt-lettered spine. Frontispiece portrait of Henson. xii, 212 pages. Frontispiece moderately foxed. Spine lean. Some shallow chipping and bumping to corners and spine ends, else cloth surprisingly fresh and bright.
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