When America was still buying and selling Africans, and torturing them when they refused to be owned, at least 100,000 slaves walked for months through dangerous territory at night and slept in secret daytime hideouts offered by citizens who risked everything to help the refugees reach freedom in Canada.
Josiah Henson escaped from Kentucky in 1830. In 1841 near Dresden, a small town surrounded by flat Ontario farmland, he organized a community of 500 Africans: the Dawn Settlement. In 1849, he published The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, which inspired Harriet Beacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly.
Today Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site occupies a small corner of the former Dawn Settlement land. It explains how Rev. Henson and his neighbors settled there, and invites visitors to walk through his house, listen to spirituals in his church, and remember the refugees.
Q operatives Christine Golus, Insa Keilbach, and Tom Rieke accepted that invitation last weekend.