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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
Josiah Henson

Josiah Henson
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.17

     challenging words:    determined, best, schooling, refused, endure, tavern, market, death, betray, rail, based, gamble, confidence, financial, entire, attend
     content words:    Josiah Henson, Charles County, Sunday Josiah, Bryce Litton, Methodist Church, Then Josiah, Ohio River, Lake Erie, Abolitionist Movement, United States

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Josiah Henson
By Mary L. Bushong

1     Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a slave? Nothing would really belong to you, and you would have no choice about what you wanted to do. Many slaves ran away to reach freedom. The greatest of those helped others to achieve their dreams. One such man was Josiah Henson.
2     Josiah Henson was born on June 15, 1789, in Charles County, Maryland. His earliest memories were of carrying buckets of water to the men who worked in the fields. As he grew, he learned to lead the plow horse and then look after his master's riding horse. Finally when he was big enough, he began working in the fields. At night he slept on a dirt floor in a crowded cabin, a pile of rags and straw for a bed.
3     While still a young child, his father was brutally beaten and eventually sold to a Southern plantation. He never saw his father again. Three years later, their master died, and the remaining family was sold. The entire family was sold off to different people. His mother pleaded with her new owner to buy her youngest child, Josiah, but he refused to listen.
4     Josiah Henson grew into a tall, strong man with an unusually bright mind. He gained his master's confidence and became the overseer of the plantation. Under his direction, the farm produced more and higher quality produce than it ever had before, and the slaves had better care.
5     Eventually, he was given the job of "market man," which indicated the greatest possible trust a master could have in a slave. Josiah was in charge of taking the produce to the cities. He valued the trust placed in him and was determined not to betray it.
6     As Josiah worked at the markets he heard the speech of those who were more educated and refined. He determined that he wanted to be more like those men.
7     One Sunday Josiah was given permission to attend a religious meeting. The words he heard there transformed his heart. For the rest of his life he would look back to it as "an awakening to a new life." He wanted nothing more than to tell others about what he had found.
8     One night Josiah accompanied his master when he went to the tavern to gamble. Riley drank too much and got into a fight with Bryce Litton. Josiah rescued his master, but Litton was determined to get revenge. He waited with several slaves who held Josiah while he beat him with a fence rail. Josiah's shoulder blades were shattered. Though he eventually healed, he could no longer raise his arms above his head.
9     Finally, Josiah was able to resume his old job. At the market he met free blacks whose masters allowed them to earn money to buy their freedom. It was at that point that he determined one day to buy his own freedom.

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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
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