How a black slave mailed himself to Freedom

In the 19th Century there was a man named Henry “Box” Brown who was a slave.

He mailed himself in a wooden crate to freedom from Richmond, Virginia to the Anti Slavery Office in Philadelphia.

The delivery took 26 hours and he later became a public speaker and slave abolitionist.

But why did he do it? His life was filled with unrewarded drudgery, although he had it better than most of his enslaved peers. The loss of freedom prevented him from living with his wife, Nancy, who was owned by a slave master on an adjacent plantation.

An artistic depiction of Henry ‘Box’ Brown in a box.

After his escape, he traveled across New England delivering antislavery lectures, and he also showcased a moving panorama called “Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery” in 1850.

He moved to England later that year in fear of the Fugitive Slave Act, which was passed soon after.

Rare ephemera shows legacy of Henry “Box” Brown.

In 1875, he returned to the United States with his wife and daughter Annie and performed as a magician.

Brown died in Toronto on June 15, 1897. He stands as a powerful symbol of the Underground Railroad and enslaved African Americans’ thirst for freedom. He was buried in Necropolis Cemetery.

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