Jim Henson (escaped slave)

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Jim Henson
Henson in 1888
Henson in 1888
Born Maryland
Nationality Canada
Occupation farmer
Known for escaped slavery and dictated a memoir

Jim Henson was an African man who was enslaved in Maryland, U.S.[1][2][3] Henson escaped slavery, and made his way to Canada, where his slave narrative, entitled Broken Shackles, was published in 1889.


Henson settled in Owen Sound, on Georgian Bay.[1][2]

Henson's maternal grandmother, Chandesia, was the daughter of a chieftain of the Bagirmi people, in what is now Chad, when she was kidnapped.[2]

In his review future poet-laureate of Canada George Elliot Clarke cheered the 2002 republication of Henson's memoirs, characterizing it as "one of the humble wellsprings of what we now proudly term African-Canadian literature."[2]

He traveled through Pennsylvania and New York State on his way to Canada.[4]

Henson had seven different masters, while he was a slave.[2] His first master's widow had promised to free all her slaves, when they reached 35. But she died long before he reached 35. At the time he escaped he needed only to make his way to Pennsylvania, to be free. He lived there for several years. But he decided to make his home in Canada after the passage of a law that allowed bounty hunters to seize any blacks they suspected were fugitive slaves.

In 1889, when John Frost wrote Henson's memoirs, based on his oral account of his life, the book's publication led to Henson re-uniting with his long-lost wife.[5] Henson was able to join her in Philadelphia area, and they were able to spend their final months together.


  1. 1.0 1.1 George Elliott Clarke (2002). Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442655270. https://books.google.ca/books?id=aeSMBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA70&lpg=PA70&dq=%22Jim+Henson%22+slave+OR+slavery+OR+abolition+-puppet+-muppet+-%22josiah+henson%22&source=bl&ots=gcJvfWDLI4&sig=ACfU3U2d1-vKj6GPbfsuw-4SGcGllClSRQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjVgcmIt97mAhUNWq0KHZGxATsQ6AEwDnoECGMQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Jim%20Henson%22&f=false. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 George Elliott Clarke (2002). "A Slave Nerrative". Books in Canada. http://www.booksincanada.com/article_view.asp?id=3036. Retrieved December 30, 2019. 
  3. Afua Cooper (2006). The Hanging Of Angelique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal. HarperCollins Canada. p. 343. ISBN 9780820329406. https://books.google.ca/books?id=DWu6f5yvtnkC&dq=Afua+Cooper,The+Untold+Story+of+Canadian+Slavery+and+the+burning+of+Old+Montreal&source=gbs_navlinks_s. 
  4. John Ernest (2014). "The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative". Oxford University Press: p. 356. ISBN 9780199731480. https://books.google.ca/books?id=EkisAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA356&lpg=PA356&dq=%22Jim+Henson%22+slave+OR+slavery+OR+abolition+-puppet+-muppet+-%22josiah+henson%22&source=bl&ots=F2PlG6yVTc&sig=ACfU3U0qH3EhoPg0OQQ0gEMFuF_Xx7JqDQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjVgcmIt97mAhUNWq0KHZGxATsQ6AEwBXoECGEQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Jim%20Henson%22%20&f=false. Retrieved December 30, 2019. 
  5. Peter Meyler. "A Watermelon, a Post Card and the Fate of Old Man Henson". Grey County History. https://greyroots.com/sites/default/files/09old_man_henson_watermelon_0.pdf. Retrieved December 30, 2019. "In From Quill to Ballpoint, 1591 - 1988, Dorothy Vick wrote that 'The publication of his (John Frost) book led to the reuniting of Jim Henson and his wife in Philadelphia.'"