Montgomery County, Md. planning officials want to hear from county residents about whether to convert the Josiah Henson site, formerly known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, into a museum.

The Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission held a meeting on June 15 to seek feedback about its plans to make the site a public museum, and to inform local residents about who Henson was and what he meant to the abolition movement.

“A lot of people know ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ the book, but it’s important to connect the man, Josiah Henson, with the book. He’s much more than just a character, he has a much larger role to play in history,” Rachel Newhouse, a project manager with Parks and Planning, told the Gaithersburg (Md.) Gazette. “It’s a huge educational value for us to start delving into this.”

Henson lived and worked as a slave from 1795 to 1830 on Isaac Riley’s farm on Old Georgetown Rd in Bethesda, Md. He worked his way up to be an overseer on Riley’s plantation and helped Riley become so successful that Henson was able to earn his own freedom.

Henson would later become a minister and wrote several autobiographies which served as the basis for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

This is the history that many want preserved.

“Reverend Josiah Henson was an extraordinary individual,” local historian C.R. Gibbs told WUSA-9 in Washington, D.C. “With this place, we have a chance to bring together the strands of farming, of slavery, to tell the interconnected and complex story that has long since been desired to be told.”

The Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission bought the 1.43-acre site for $1 million in 2006, according to the Gazette, which includes Riley’s home and a portion of the former plantation. The site is currently open several times a year for tours, and commission officials said they hope to fully open the site to the public by 2012.

Members of the community are encouraged to share their input about the commission’s plan throughout the summer by contacting project manager Rachel Newhouse at