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Slavery in Montgomery County

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New archaeological dig focuses on former slave and will determine the future of Josiah Henson Park museum

This house on Old Georgetown Road is being restored to the way it looked during the 1800s.  PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAKThis house on Old Georgetown Road is being restored to the way it looked during the 1800s. PHOTO BY SUZANNE POLLAK  Just a few yards off busy Old Georgetown Road in North Bethesda, archaeologists with the County Department of Parks are digging up pottery shards, buttons, thimbles, nails, and animal bones that had been used for various chores such as cooking and sewing as well as toys, all dating back to 18th and 19th centuries.

Isaac Riley owned 275 acres there. He also owned 24 slaves, including Josiah Henson, whose later journal writings became the basis for the character Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

As a young boy, Henson watched his father beaten for trying to stop his wife’s rape by the owner of a plantation, where the family was enslaved in Charles County.

Soon after that, Riley purchased Henson and kept him on the North Bethesda property as a slave until 1830. He later became the overseer for Riley and often took the wheat, barley, and corn crops grown on the property to Georgetown to sell.

While living in Maryland, Henson frequented a nearby church that was for white people only. He stood outside and listened as the preacher led the congregation in prayer and song. He developed a love for Christianity and later became a reverend.  

For several years, he strove to buy his freedom, but Riley “lies to him, tricks him,” said Cassandra Michaud, senior archaeologist for the Parks Department.

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Things my father taught me

nips wild turkeyMy dad taught me a lot of things growing up. Some I can share, but some would be best left to late night conversations after imbibing some Wild Turkey.
One of the things that sticks in my addled, aging mind is that it is best to “shut the Hell up and let everyone think you’re an idiot, rather than opening your mouth and getting your butt beat because everyone found out you’re an idiot.”
I know, there are plenty of other interpretations of that particular saying from dear old dad - but his sticks with me.
Obviously Kanye West, Donald Trump and several county candidates for council and county executive could’ve used the services of Dear Old Dad.

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Historic Howard U. hospital recognized at Twinbrook talk

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Of the 12,000 surgeons who served during the Civil War, only 14 were African-Americans. Seven worked in The Contraband Hospital, which is now a teaching hospital at Howard University.

During the Civil War, some 40,000 slaves sought freedom in D.C., according to Jill Newmark, exhibition specialist for the National Library of Medicine. She spoke last week at Twinbrook Library as part of a Black History Month program sponsored in cooperation with Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries and the Montgomery County Historical Society.

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Montgomery Parks Seeks to Build Henson Museum

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Josiah Henson bwNORTH BETHESDA – Josiah Henson was born a slave near Port Tobacco in Charles County, Maryland in 1789. After his family’s master’s death, Henson was separated from his family. His mother, who had been sold to Montgomery County plantation owner Isaac Riley, pleaded with her new master to purchase Josiah so she could at least have her youngest child with her.

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