The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story that Sparked the Civil War

Written by Jared A. Brock
Review by Jessica Brockmole

In 1830, after 41 years in slavery, Josiah Henson fled Kentucky with his wife and four children, walking 600 miles and finding freedom on Canadian soil. There Josiah Henson became an abolitionist, a preacher, and a community leader, establishing a settlement in Ontario where newly freed blacks could gain an education and secure economic freedom alongside their physical freedom. Though safe in Canada, Josiah risked everything by returning to the South to lead 118 slaves to their own freedom in the North. His story inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Written by documentarian and film producer Jared A. Brock, The Road to Dawn is a compelling biography of a little-known historical figure, researched largely through Henson’s own published autobiographies. Despite the use of primary sources, Brock does not engage with historians and current historical arguments. This lends his text more of a narrative than scholarly tone, which might account for the brevity of some topics (Henson’s involvement with the Underground Railroad is summarized in a single sentence). While not a deep analysis of a historical figure and era, The Road to Dawn is a quick-paced and well-written biography of a thoroughly intriguing person.