November 2, 2010
Back in July, I had posted a story about the original "Uncle Tom's Cabin", located in Bethesda, MD and only a few miles from where I grew up. Recently, though, it has come to light that the supposed cabin where slave Josiah Henson lived is actually a kitchen for the Riley Farm. And, on top of that, the whole house is not as old as it was promoted to be, built sometime after Henson fled to Canada where his life story inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's landmark book.
The Washington Post did an expose of this massive history FAIL last month which you can read here. There's also more in-depth report on this historian website. All in all, it's a compelling tale about how the Montgomery County government, which spent more than a million dollars to keep the property off the market, ignored historical evidence that countered the years of rumors that had identified the physical property as signficant.
Though it's still believed that Henson worked as a slave on the Riley Farm in the early 19th century, the actual cabin is not there anymore. The official website for the site has been updated since but there is no admission of their error. There is only reference to a public meeting held on October 28th where the name of the site was changed from "Uncle Tom's Cabin Park" to "Josiah Henson Special Park". Special indeed. And there is a new warning at the end of the main text, stating that "as with all historical inquiries, research is ongoing."