Clues to inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin

August 14, 2012|By Dave Rosenthal

Archaeologists may have found remains of a barn or blacksmith shop from the days of Josiah Henson, a former slave whose autobiography was the inspiration for "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the Baltimore Sun reports.

Here's an excerpt from Scott Dance's story about the dig in North Bethesda, Md.: "[A]rchaeologists with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks and the PBS program "Time Team America" began exploring the Josiah Henson Special Park on Monday. They found evidence of a buried foundation that may have existed in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when Henson worked on the homestead for landowner Isaac Riley. The dig could accelerate fact-finding efforts that started in 2006, when Montgomery County bought the historic site from private owners. Since then, it has been open to the public for tours of what was Riley's home, parts of which date to the early 1800s, and of the grounds where Henson worked."

Henson fled Maryland via the Underground Railroad and "Life of Josiah Henson," published in 1849, was used by the abolitionist movement to highlight the plight of slaves. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, published in 1852, furthered the cause.

The University of Virginia has a great website devoted to Stowe's book and its cultural setting. You can also learn more at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, which maintains her Hartford home as a place of learning (right next to Mark Twain's house).

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