Author: Jeffrey Ruggles

Program Administrator at Virginia Commonwealth University's Virginia Center on Aging and is author of The Unboxing of Henry Box Brown (2003)

Narratives of Henry Box Brown, The

The narratives of Henry Box Brown are two similarly titled works of nonfiction: Narrative of Henry Box Brown, published in Boston in 1849, and Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, published in Manchester, England, in 1851. Both books tell the story of Henry Brown, an enslaved man from Louisa County who escaped to freedom in March 1849 by having himself shipped in a box from Richmond to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Afterward, Brown moved to Boston and added the word Box to his name. He related his story at antislavery gatherings in New England, which is likely how he met the abolitionist Charles Stearns, who wrote and copublished the 1849 Narrative. The proceeds from the sale of that book helped fund a moving panorama called Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery. Brown exhibited the panorama throughout New England until late in 1850, when he relocated to Great Britain to avoid the threat of re-enslavement under the Fugitive Slave Act. There he published the second Narrative in 1851. Although the second Narrative is subtitled “First English Edition,” evidence suggests it was mostly written in Boston in 1850. The two books adhere to the same course of events, but diverge considerably in content and tone. The 1851 Narrative was not published in North America until 2002, when the Oxford University Press issued a reprint.


Robert Beverley (d. 1722)

Robert Beverley, also known as Robert Beverley Jr. or Robert Beverley the historian, was a member of the House of Burgesses (1699–1706) and clerk of that body, and served as chief clerk of the governor’s Council. He is best known, however, as author of The History and Present State of Virginia, In Four Parts (1705), the first published history of a British colony by a native of North America. Probably born in Middlesex County, Beverley worked as a clerk in Jamestown, using family connections to advance politically while acquiring substantial wealth. In 1703 he sailed to England to appeal a suit he lost before the General Court, and there he penned his history, a collection of personal history, official accounts, and material borrowed from others. Beverley self-consciously identified himself as a Virginian and used the books to settle political scores. In particular, he was highly critical of Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson, who made sure that Beverley lost his positions as clerk of the House of Burgesses and of King and Queen County. In his later years, Beverley retired to his large estate, Beverley Park, where he experimented with wine-making. He may have accompanied Alexander Spotswood on his journey to the crest of Blue Ridge Mountains. Beverley died in 1722.