Josiah Henson Museum & Park
There’s a lot of history packed into a patch of land in North Bethesda, and a farmhouse renovation and recently added visitor center there help tell parts of the story of slavery in Montgomery County. The site of the Josiah Henson Museum & Park on Old Georgetown Road is the former Riley plantation, which included 3,500 acres and more than 20 enslaved people. One of them was the Rev. Josiah Henson, whose remarkable story and memoir were the basis for the character of Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s influential novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In 2021, a new visitor center opened at the site. The historic Riley farmhouse also reopened in 2021 after a restoration and installation of new exhibits about slavery in the county. The displays include historical artifacts, such as buttons and horseshoes, found at the site, where archaeological excavations are ongoing. Henson was enslaved on the Riley plantation from 1795 to 1825, when Isaac Riley ordered him and other enslaved laborers to move to his brother’s plantation in Kentucky. In 1830, Henson escaped to freedom in Canada with his wife and children and started a community for formerly enslaved people. He also helped free more than 100 others as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Exhibits at the museum link Henson’s inspirational story, Stowe’s book and the ongoing fight for justice today. Timed entry tickets for self-guided tours, which take about an hour, are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Tickets are required and can be purchased online for $5; $4 for ages 6-17 and 55 and older; free for children 5 and younger.
Josiah Henson Museum & Park, 11410 Old Georgetown Road, North Bethesda, 301-765-8790, josiahhenson.org