Montgomery County Planning Board approves resolution to rename Montrose Parkway in honor of renowned local abolitionist the Rev. Josiah Henson
February 24, 2022
Street to be renamed Josiah Henson Parkway runs through land where Henson was enslaved; Henson led over 100 people to freedom as a conductor of the Underground Railroad.
Wheaton, MD –The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), approved a resolution during its meeting on February 24 to rename Montrose Parkway, located in North Bethesda, in honor of the Rev. Josiah Henson. The street to be renamed Josiah Henson Parkway runs through the former plantation property of Isaac Riley, where Henson was enslaved. This property is also home to the Josiah Henson Museum and Park, operated by Montgomery Parks.
Henson, a renowned international speaker and abolitionist, led 118 people from enslavement in the United States to freedom in Canada as a conductor of the Underground Railroad. His autobiography, which depicted his time enslaved on the Riley plantation until he escaped to Canada in 1830, inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The record-breaking book fueled the abolitionist movement in the mid-nineteenth century and helped to propel the American Civil War.
“We are proud to commemorate the Rev. Josiah Henson’s contributions to end slavery with this new street name,” said Montgomery Planning Director Gwen Wright. “We hope that everyone who travels on Josiah Henson Parkway will take a moment to think about how their lives may have been different if it were not for his bravery and perseverance.”
The request to rename Montrose Parkway came from Councilmember Hans Riemer, who sent a letter to Director Wright on January 5 after working collaboratively with community leaders, including Catherine Leggett, Campaign Chair of the Henson Museum Project, the Josiah Henson Museum and Park Advisory Committee, and Warren Fleming, an early advocate of Henson’s legacy.
“It is important that we provide the Rev. Josiah Henson with the public recognition he justifiably deserves, and this new street name is a great step forward,” said Councilmember Riemer. “It will give our residents and children a symbol of the fight for freedom that Henson embodies while reminding our community of our unique history and the role of African American leaders since our founding. I am honored to help make Josiah Henson Parkway a reality in partnership with community leaders, Montgomery Planning and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.”
M-NCPPC is the sole entity authorized under Maryland law with street addressing or renaming streets in Montgomery County, except within certain independent municipalities. The Montgomery County Planning Board has sole approval authority over street renaming, which it has delegated to the Montgomery Planning Director.
After conducting an analysis, Montgomery Planning determined that this renaming is an appropriate way to commemorate Henson as an historic figure of international significance. It will also have a minimal impact on the two properties currently with Montrose Parkway addresses and will eliminate any possible confusion with Montrose Road, also located in North Bethesda.
This renaming effort is separate from the M-NCPPC Streets and Parks Facilities Renaming Review Project, which focuses on Montgomery County-owned and maintained streets and park facilities named after Confederates or those who otherwise do not reflect Montgomery County’s values. Montgomery Planning has so far renamed three streets under that project identified as having full name matches with Confederate soldiers to honor local African American historical figures Geneva Mason and William Dove.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and the State Highway Administration (SHA) are expected to install the new street signs for Josiah Henson Parkway in early March.
About Josiah Henson Museum and Park
The museum and park are located at 11410 Old Georgetown Road in North Bethesda, on the site of the former Isaac Riley plantation where Henson was enslaved from 1795 – 1830. The museum is open Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Purchasing tickets online is suggested but not required for admission. You can access tickets for purchase online or at the museum.
Please see the media kit for more information about the Josiah Henson Museum and Park.
About Montgomery Parks
Montgomery Parks manages more than 37,000 acres of parkland, consisting of 421 parks. Montgomery Parks is a department of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency established in 1927 to steward public land. M-NCPPC has been nationally recognized for its high-quality parks and recreation services and is regarded as a national model by other parks systems. www.MontgomeryParks.org
Montgomery Parks, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, encourages and supports the participation of individuals with disabilities. Please contact the Program Access Office at 301-495-2581 (Voice/TTY), MD Relay 7-1-1 or 800-552-7724 or ProgramAccess@MontgomeryParks.org to request a disability modification. Visit www.MontgomeryParks.org/access for more information.
About the Equity Agenda for Planning
Montgomery Planning recognizes and acknowledges the role that our plans and policies have played in creating and perpetuating racial inequity in Montgomery County. We are committed to transforming the way we work as we seek to address, mitigate, and eliminate inequities from the past and develop planning solutions to create equitable communities in the future. While it will take time to fully develop a new methodology for equity in the planning process, we cannot delay applying an equity lens to our work. Efforts to date include:
- Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning. The Planning Board approved Equity in Master Planning Framework, and staff is working on action items.
- Prioritizing equity in Thrive Montgomery 2050. Community Equity is one of the three priority areas of our county General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050.
- Focusing on equity in upcoming plans. Equity is a central focus of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, the first master plan to launch since Montgomery County’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Act passed. All upcoming plans and studies will have an equity focus.
- Created an Equity Focus Areas mapping tool and developing a Community Equity Index. Equity Focus Areas in Montgomery County have high concentrations of lower-income people of color, who may also speak English less than very well. Montgomery Planning developed this data-driven tool to identify and map these areas to assess potential racial and social inequities and produce master plans that will foster more equitable outcomes for communities in Montgomery County. The Community Equity Index will expand on the previous Equity Focus Area analysis, creating a more robust, diagnostic tool providing additional detail of critically selected neighborhood characteristics relevant for equity analysis countywide.
- Viewing management and operations through an equity lens. Our efforts are not limited to the master planning process. Management and operational functions like communications and human resources are developing approaches, tools, plans, and training to ensure that we look at everything through an equity lens.