by Vivian “Vicki” Jackson
Who was Uncle Tom in Stowe’s novel? A Maryland slave, Josiah Henson, was abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe’s choice to depict in her anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was influential in starting the Civil War.Josiah Henson used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom, he protected fugitives, and he made several trips to bring other slaves to freedom. He settled in Canada where he established a school for fugitive slaves and he worked to organize the Afro-Canadian community that emphasized independence from any white patronage.The climax of the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is a tearjerker. Uncle Tom is asked to reveal where two runaway slave women were hiding. He knew that concealing their whereabouts would bring about his own death. He protected them anyway and Tom was beaten to death Unfortunately, Uncle Tom’s true character is only contained within the pages of the novel. The stage productions omitted Tom’s protective abolitionist attitude because it was not financially profitable regarding ticket sales. Therefore, stage producers “changed” Uncle Tom’s image into a man whose English is poor, and who will sell out black people for any white person’s favor. It is that “distorted” image of him as being a sell out that made “Uncle Tom” a negative connotative term. Josiah Henson, the real Uncle Tom, was an author, abolitionist, and minister. His settlement in Canada was the last station of the Underground Railroad. He died in Canada at the age of 93.We do a disservice to Josiah Henson/Uncle Tom by comparing him to such black people as Tim Scott and Clarence Thomas. They are no Uncle Toms. I shared this with my students throughout my career. Share with your friends, children, and grandchildren. Let’s not distort the images of our Black Abolitionists.
Conflicting narratives were fed to us for generations, negative indoctrination was at the forefront of those self hate teachings from white Americans!!! Josiah Henson was definitely not a SAMBO the likes of white man’s Senator and other so-called Black Republicans!!! There are SAMBOS!!! BUT, HE IS NO UNCLE TOM!!!