ENTRY

Narratives of Henry Box Brown, The

SUMMARY

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.

READING LEVEL
Grade 8

Henry Box Brown was an abolitionist speaker and performer. He was born in Louisa County, Virginia. Brown worked in a Richmond tobacco factory. In 1848, his wife and children were sold away to North Carolina. Brown decided to escape from slavery and enlisted the help of a free Black and a white slaveowner, who conspired to ship him in a box to Philadelphia. In March 1849 the package was accepted there by a leader of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. As a free man, Brown lectured across New England on the evils of slavery and participated in the publication of the Narrative of Henry Box Brown (1849). In 1850, a moving panorama, Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery, opened in Boston. That same year, Brown, worried that he might be re-enslaved, moved to England, where he lectured, presented his panorama, and performed as a hypnotist. 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.

Early Years and Escape

Henry Brown was born between 1815 and 1816 on a plantation in Louisa County. Many enslaved people did not know their parents or siblings. But Brown spent his formative years with his parents and his four sisters and three brothers. They all were enslaved, belonging to John Barret, a former mayor of Richmond. After Barret’s death on June 9, 1830, Brown was separated from his family and sent to Richmond to work in the tobacco factory of Barret’s son William Barret. Brown’s brothers and sisters were sent to various plantations, except for Martha, who, according to Brown, was kept by William Barret as his “keep Miss,” or mistress.

In 1836 Brown married Nancy, an enslaved woman owned by a different master, and together they had three children. The family joined the First African Baptist Church, where Henry Brown sang in the church’s choir. He had become a skilled tobacco worker and earned enough money through overwork to rent a house for his family. In August 1848, Nancy Brown’s master sold her and their three children to another master in North Carolina. At the time, she was pregnant with a fourth child.

After mourning his loss for several months, Brown decided to escape from slavery. Through James Caesar Anthony Smith, a free Black man and fellow member of the church choir, he contacted Samuel Alexander Smith. Smith was a white shoemaker who agreed to help Brown escape—for a price. (Ironically, Samuel Smith himself owned enslaved laborers.) The three men rejected several possible ideas before Brown developed an inventive idea. He decided to be shipped in a box by train to Philadelphia. Samuel Smith contacted James Miller McKim, a leader of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society who was involved in Underground Railroad activities.

On March 23, 1849, the Smiths sealed Brown into a wooden box three feet long, two and one-half feet deep, and two feet wide. The package was labeled as “dry goods” before being shipped from Richmond to Philadelphia. Brown was turned head down in the box for several hours and nearly died. At other transfers the box was roughly handled, but he endured silently. He later wrote that he “was resolved to conquer or die,” even as “I felt my eyes swelling as if they would burst from their sockets; and the veins on my temples were dreadfully distended [swollen]with pressure of blood upon my head.” Even as he thought he might die, Brown heard a man telling another that he had been standing too long and needed a place to sit; “so perceiving my box, standing on end, he threw it down and then two sat upon it. I was thus relieved from a state of agony which may be more easily imagined than described.”

The “package” finally arrived in Philadelphia early on March 24. At the office of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, the box was opened hesitantly. After twenty-six hours of confinement, Brown emerged, alive and free. “I had risen as it were from the dead,” Brown wrote.

Career in Boston and England

At the end of May Brown appeared before the New England Anti-Slavery Convention in Boston. His daring escape was celebrated as proof that enslaved people desired freedom, and he was renamed Henry Box Brown. He had a fine voice and performed the hymn of thanksgiving that he had sung on his arrival in Philadelphia. That summer he appeared at antislavery gatherings. Published sheets with the lyrics to “Song, Sung by Mr. Brown on being removed from the box” and “Escape from Slavery of Henry Box Brown” were probably sold by Brown after his performances. Early in September 1849 the Narrative of Henry Box Brown, written by Charles Stearns, was published in Boston. Brown and Stearns toured New England selling the book and delivering antislavery lectures into the early part of November 1849.

Samuel Smith attempted another shipment of slaves from Richmond to Philadelphia on May 8, 1849, but was discovered and arrested. That November he was sentenced to six and a half years in the state penitentiary. James C. A. Smith had helped Smith in the attempt but avoided arrest until September 25, 1849. A divided panel of magistrates enabled him to escape conviction. James C. A. Smith had joined Brown in Boston by December.

Late in 1849 Brown involved the Boston artist Josiah Wolcott and others to begin work on an ambitious moving panorama about slavery. In January 1850 The Resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia, a lithograph probably reproducing an image created for the panorama, was published in Boston. It became one of the earliest of many visual representations of that scene. On April 11, 1850, the moving panorama, Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery, opened in Boston. Brown and Smith exhibited in New England throughout the summer.

On August 30, 1850, with passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill looming, Brown was assaulted on the street in Providence, Rhode Island. Believing that he was at risk of being captured and returned to Virginia, Brown, along with Smith, sailed to England in October 1850. They showed the panorama in several English cities between November 1850 and spring of 1851. Early in May 1851 the “First English Edition” of the Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself was published in Manchester.

In June 1851 Brown’s and Smith’s partnership ended after a bitter dispute involving money. Smith also complained that Brown had made no effort to purchase his own family. Smith strongly criticized Brown in letters to leading American abolitionists as well as to those English activists who had helped them get started in that country. Out of both necessity and choice, Brown left the abolitionist circle entirely and went into English show business.

He showed his panorama throughout England during the 1850s. During this time he developed the character of the African Prince as another part of his persona, dressing in fine clothes and jewelry. In July 1852 Brown won a libel case against a newspaper that had published racial slurs about his performances. By 1859 he had remarried and was also exhibiting a panorama of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 with his wife. Around that time Brown began to perform as a mesmerist, entertaining audiences with the actions of people under his hypnotic influence. As late as 1864, he still occasionally showed the Mirror of Slavery.

Death and Legacy

In 1875, accompanied by his wife and daughter Annie, Brown returned to the United States. Billing himself as “Prof. H. Box Brown,” he performed as a magician. He continued his performance of the African Prince and continued to climb into his original box. By that time Henry Box Brown was living in Toronto, where he died on June 15, 1897. He was buried in Necropolis Cemetery there.

More than a century later, the man who escaped slavery in a box has become a symbol of the Underground Railroad. His confinement and triumphant appearance from the box have inspired works by several contemporary artists. Brown has been featured in a short film, at least two plays, an opera, and an exhibit at a wax museum. The writer Anthony Cohen paid homage to Brown’s courage by traveling from Philadelphia to New York inside a box. Brown’s famous passage to freedom was not a thing apart from the rest of his life. He displayed the attributes that allowed him to succeed as a fugitive time and again during his long career as a performer.

Grade 4

Henry Box Brown was an anti-slavery speaker and performer. He was born in Louisa County, Virginia. Brown worked in a Richmond tobacco factory. In 1848, his wife and children were sold away to North Carolina. Brown decided to escape from slavery. Brown shipped himself in a box to Philadelphia to escape slavery. In 1849 the package was received by a leader of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. As a free man, Brown spoke across New England on the evils of slavery. He also helped publish the Narrative of Henry Box Brown (1849). In 1850, a moving panorama, Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery, opened in Boston. That same year, Brown worried that he might be re-enslaved. He moved to England, where he spoke, presented his panorama, and performed as a hypnotist. In 1875, he returned to the United States with his wife and daughter Annie. Brown performed as a magician during that time. Brown died in Toronto on June 15, 1897. He stands as a powerful symbol of the Underground Railroad and enslaved African Americans’ fight for freedom.

Early Years and Escape

Henry Brown was born between 1815 and 1816. He was enslaved on a plantation in Louisa County. Many enslaved people did not know their parents or siblings. But Brown spent his early years with his parents and his four sisters and three brothers. They all were enslaved by John Barret, a former mayor of Richmond. After Barret’s death in 1830, Brown was separated from his family. He was sent to Richmond to work in a tobacco factory. Most of Brown’s brothers and sisters were sent to different plantations.

In 1836 Brown married  and enslaved woman named Nancy. Nancy was owned by a different master. Together they had three children. The family joined the First African Baptist Church. Henry Brown sang in the church’s choir. He became a skilled tobacco worker and was able to earn some money. Eventually, he earned enough to rent a house for his family. In 1848, Nancy’s master sold her and their three children to another master in North Carolina. At the time, she was pregnant with a fourth child.

After mourning his loss, Brown decided to escape from slavery. A fellow member of the church choir, James Caesar Anthony Smith (a free Black man), helped him get started.

Together, they contacted Samuel Alexander Smith. Samuel Smith was a white shoemaker who agreed to help Brown escape—for a price. (Samuel Smith himself owned enslaved laborers.) Brown came up with the idea to be shipped in a box by train to Philadelphia. Samuel contacted a leader of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. The leader was involved in Underground Railroad activities.

On March 23, 1849, the Smiths sealed Brown into a wooden box. The box was three feet long, two and one-half feet deep, and two feet wide. It was labeled as “dry goods” before being shipped from Richmond. Brown was turned head-down in the box for several hours. At other stops the box was handled roughly. He later wrote that he was determined “to conquer or die,” even as “I felt my eyes swelling as if they would burst from their sockets.”

The “package” finally arrived in Philadelphia on March 24. At the office of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, the box was opened carefully. After twenty-six hours of being trapped in the box, Brown came out alive and free. “I had risen as it were from the dead,” Brown wrote.

Career in Boston and England

In May, Brown attended the New England Anti-Slavery Convention in Boston. His daring escape was celebrated among the crowd. It showed people how much enslaved people wanted to be free. Here he was renamed Henry Box Brown. He sang a song that he had sung when he first arrived in Philadelphia. That summer he appeared at antislavery gatherings. Brown probably sold copies of the song’s lyrics about him after the performances. In September 1849 the Narrative of Henry Box Brown by Charles Stearns was published. Brown and Stearns toured New England selling the book and giving anti-slavery speeches.

Samuel Smith tried to put this same escape plan to use in May of 1849. He wanted to “ship” a group of enslaved people to Philadelphia. His plan was discovered, and he was arrested. That November he was sentenced to six and a half years in the state prison. James C. A. Smith helped Smith in the attempt. But he avoided arrest until September 1849. He was never convicted of the crime. James C. A. Smith joined Brown in Boston by December.

Late in 1849 Brown began his next project.  Brown worked with artists to create a visual presentation about slavery. Before movies were possible, artists would sometimes create large artistic scenes called panoramas. Brown and the artists created a moving panorama that brought the scenes to life. On April 11, 1850, the moving panorama, Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery, opened in Boston. Brown and Smith showed the piece in New England throughout the summer.

Brown risked being captured and returned to Virginia. He, along with James C. A. Smith, sailed to England in October 1850. They showed the panorama in many English cities. In May 1851 the Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself was published.

In June 1851 Brown’s and Smith’s partnership ended. The two had bitter conflicts about money. Smith also complained that Brown had not tried to free his family. Smith criticized Brown in letters to anti-slavery activists (abolitionists). Brown left the abolitionist circle and went into English show business.

He showed his panorama in England during the 1850s. During this time, he created the character of the African Prince. In this performance, he would dress in fine clothes and jewelry. By 1859 he had remarried. He began showing a new panorama with his wife. Brown also created a new performance as a hypnotist during this time. As late as 1864, he still sometimes showed the Mirror of Slavery.

Death and Legacy

In 1875, Brown returned to the United States with his wife and daughter Annie. Promoting himself as “Prof. H. Box Brown,” he performed as a magician. He continued his performance of the African Prince and continued to climb into his original box. By that time Henry Box Brown was living in Toronto, where he died on June 15, 1897.

More than a century later, the man who escaped slavery in a box has become a symbol of the Underground Railroad. His story has inspired works by many artists. Brown has been featured in a short film, at least two plays, an opera, and an exhibit at a wax museum. The writer Anthony Cohen honored Brown’s courage by traveling from Philadelphia to New York inside a box. Brown’s famous passage to freedom was not a thing apart from the rest of his life. He showed the character traits that allowed him to succeed as a fugitive time and again during his long career as a performer.

Grades 11+

Background and Publishing History

Henry Box Brown’s Escape to Freedom

Henry Brown was born into slavery in 1815 or 1816 at the Hermitage, a plantation in Louisa County. He was sent to work in Richmond in 1830. There, about 1836, Brown married a woman named Nancy, who was enslaved to a different master. The couple had three children and lived together in a rented house until, in August 1848, Nancy Brown and the three children were sold and taken south to North Carolina. The loss of his family led Henry Brown to risk an escape from slavery. With the help of James C. A. Smith, a free black dentist and shopkeeper who sang in a choir with Brown, and Samuel A. Smith, a white shoemaker and one-time lottery vendor and slave owner, on March 23, 1849, Brown fit himself in a wooden box measuring three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet wide. His comrades secured the lid and shipped him from Richmond by Adams Express, a railroad package service. The box was conveyed, sometimes right side up and sometimes not, by wagon, by wagon again, by rail, by steamboat, by rail, on a ferry, and by wagon. Twenty-six hours after being sealed within, at the Philadelphia office of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Brown emerged from the box a free man.

After gaining liberty, Brown moved to Boston and became an active abolitionist. He related the story of his escape many times over the spring and summer of 1849. It may have been at one of these events that Brown met Charles Stearns, a Massachusetts abolitionist, lay preacher, and pacifist who was employed as a printer. Stearns became the author and copublisher (along with Brown) of Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped from Slavery, Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Wide. Written from a Statement of Facts Made by Himself. With Remarks Upon the Remedy for Slavery (1849). Brown and Stearns published the book in September 1849 and set out on a book tour. They advertised in the Boston Liberator and traveled to more than forty New England towns—a successful venture, for, according to the 1851 Narrative, the “edition of 8,000 copies sold in about two months.”

Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law

Late in 1849, using his share of the publishing proceeds, Brown recruited Boston artist Josiah Wolcott and others to create a moving panorama. A theatrical phenomenon of the era, the moving panorama was a series of paintings on a very long canvas, rolled up like a giant scroll and presented scene by scene with descriptive commentary and music. Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery opened in April 1850. Several of its panels depicted his escape. Brown traveled with the exhibition throughout New England until August, when the impending passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill became a danger to his freedom. Late in 1850 he fled with the exhibition to Great Britain.

After successfully exhibiting the panorama in the north of England, Brown earned enough to publish another book. The “First English Edition” of the Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself was published in Manchester in May 1851. To promote its release, he had himself shipped in the original box by rail from Bradford to Leeds. At Leeds, a marching band accompanied the carriage that paraded the box to a theater for Brown’s “resurrection”—probably a unique event in the history of book promotion.

A second English edition was printed from the stereotype plates of the first in Bilston in 1852. It is identical to the 1851 edition except for the title page. Only one copy has been located, suggesting a limited print run. Brown likely funded the second edition with his award from a libel case he pursued against a Wolverhampton newspaper. Of the three editions of his two Narratives, Brown co-published the first and funded the latter two.

Narrative of Henry Box Brown (1849)

Henry Box Brown

In the 1849 Narrative, Brown’s story is bookended by Stearns’s introduction and closing essay (the latter titled “Cure for the Evil of Slavery”). This format is similar to other slave narratives of the period. The book includes a frontispiece portrait of Brown, probably engraved from a daguerreotype, and an engraving of the box, as well as an excerpt of a speech about Brown made by Reverend Samuel J. May at the 1849 New England Anti-Slavery Convention. Of the book’s ninety-two pages, Brown’s narrative composes fifty-six.

Brown’s story begins with his childhood in Louisa County and ends with his arrival in Philadelphia. It tells little of his life as a free man. The title page claims that the narrative was “Written from a Statement of Facts Made by Himself”—that is, Brown—and the events described in the book do match accounts in the press and in letters of Brown’s talks. However, the 1849 Narrative does not ring true as Brown’s own expression. Brown’s personality is obscured by Stearns’s overbearing prose. The language is laden with rhetorical cries to the heavens, metaphors, analogies, and heartfelt pleas, all focused on making a moral argument against slavery. For example, it was not Brown who commented on the hypocrisy of Brown’s wife’s “pious” Presbyterian owner by referencing the Greek legend of the sword of Damocles: “O reader, have you no heart to sympathize with the injured slave, as he thus lives in a state of perpetual torment, the dread uncertainty of his wife’s fate, continually hanging over his head, and poisoning all his joys, as the naked sword hung by a hair, over the head of an ancient king’s guest….”

It is possible that Brown’s “Statement of Facts” was based on his public comments and that Stearns obtained Brown’s story by taking notes at his appearances. Indeed, the 1849 Narrative is structured like an antislavery meeting: the introductory framing, the fugitive’s tale, and the closing plea. Perhaps the book should be interpreted as if it were a transcript of public speaking. Stearns’s Brown states at the end of his narrative, “I now wish to introduce to your hearing a friend of mine….” The final section, written in Stearns’s own voice, opens: “You have listened with eager ears, and tearful eyes, to the recital of Mr. Brown.” The best way to read the 1849 Narrative might be aloud, with feeling.

Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself (1851)

Henry Box Brown Song

The main story in the 1851 Narrative remains essentially the same as that in the 1849 Narrative, but the 1851 book is more informative and less oratorical. It contains much new material and is more readable. Published in Manchester, England, the book includes an introduction by an English reformer, Reverend Thomas Gardiner Lee; an engraved illustration of Brown rising from the box, copied from an 1850 lithograph by one of the panorama artists; and the lyrics to two songs: the hymn Brown sang when he arrived in Philadelphia, and the light-hearted “Escape from Slavery of Henry Box Brown.” Thematically, the text focuses more on describing the often-hypocritical actions of the men who abet slavery rather than making a moral argument against the institution itself.

Despite the title’s claim that the 1851 book was “Written by Himself,” there is no evidence that Brown was sufficiently literate to put the words on paper. Nonetheless he was certainly a cocreator of the book, and the result is more directly Brown’s expression than is the 1849 Narrative. The sword of Damocles analogy, for instance, is not carried over from the earlier book. Several incidents elaborated in the 1851 Narrative could only have come from Brown, likely through interviews with the unidentified amanuensis: how Brown helped his wife’s master to purchase her, for example; how her master, who was ill, asked Brown and other slaves to pray for him, and then, after the master’s wife mocked him for that request, became angry with the slaves; how white Baptists in Richmond manipulated the terms of the sale of their old church building to the black congregation; and how, while singing at a Christmas benefit concert, Brown became disenchanted with the church’s mission.

Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself (1851)

The 1851 Narrative was published in England, but a number of clues, both circumstantial and in the text, suggest that the main manuscript was most likely written in Boston in 1850 during the production of Brown’s moving panorama. No event in the narrative takes place after April 1850, as if the manuscript were complete by then. Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery is never mentioned in the text, even though exhibiting the panorama was the biggest part of Brown’s public life from April 1850 forward. Two testimonial letters in the front matter of the 1851 Narrative are dated April 1850, collected at that time, it would seem, for an anticipated publication. And the 1851 Narrative states that James C. A. Smith, Brown’s business partner, “is now in New England”—a statement that was accurate for most of 1850, but was six months out of date at the time of publication, because Smith was with Brown in England.

Furthermore, Brown’s position in Boston in early 1850 was conducive to preparing a book: he had a fixed residence, time, and money, and was working with creative people. In England he was an exhibitor on the move, living out of his trunk in temporary lodgings, and busy: advertisements have been found for shows that took place in most of the weeks leading up to the book’s release. In addition, letters written by Smith in this period describe Brown as much engaged in tasting the fruits of liberty—namely, visiting pubs and socializing.

Another indication that an American writer prepared the manuscript for the so-called English edition of Brown’s Narrative is a reference to one of Nancy Brown’s owners, a “Mr. Reevs, a minister of the gospel, who had not long come from the north, where he had the character of being an Anti-slavery man; but he had not been long in the south when all his anti-slavery notions vanished and he became a staunch advocate of slave-holding doctrines.” The 1851 Narrative reports that Reevs “even wrote articles in favour of slavery which were published in the Richmond Republican.”

Certainly it was Brown who recalled Reevs. But it’s hardly likely that Brown, who was denied access to newspapers in Richmond, would have known that Reevs wrote for the Richmond Republican. That information came from another source. There is a far better chance that a colleague from Massachusetts, where the Southern press was carefully watched, would have been a close enough reader of the Republican to know about Reevs’s articles, rather than anyone Brown met in Great Britain, across the ocean and beyond the range of postal subsidy for newspapers.

Critical Reception

Reviews of the 1849 Narrative were mixed. The New York Evangelist praised it, describing Brown as “a humble, but strong prophet, whose voice is now touching thousands of breasts as with live coals from God’s altar—to kindle them against slavery.” A review in the September 28, 1849, edition of the North Star concluded, “We say to all our readers, Get the book.” In October 1849 a writer for Hudson, New York’s Rural Repository Devoted to Polite Literature declared, “Though we have no apology for slavery, yet it is remarkable to see how genius contrives to burst its fetters. Like the prison, it sometimes concentrates the whole genius. And the reader who wants to peruse one of the most thrilling exhibitions of genius, under the most discouraging circumstances, would do well to purchase the narrative before us.”

Others criticized the book, particularly Stearns’s writing. A review in the September 14, 1849, edition of the Boston Liberator “regretted that it was not prepared with more care, as its loose and declamatory style greatly mars its interest; still, there is much in it calculated to affect the heart, and to excite an intense moral abhorrence of the cruel system of slavery.” In the same vein was a review in the September 22, 1849, edition of the Christian Register: “We wish the compiler had not worked the matter up quite as much, and had given it in a style of greater verisimilitude, more simplicity and better taste, and mixed it less up with irrelevant matter.” The book was, the reviewer felt, a missed opportunity to affect change: “‘A round, unvarnished tale’ of this refuge from slavery, would be one of the strongest weapons for anti-slavery ever employed.”

Contemporary response to the 1851 Narrative is unknown. In Great Britain, press coverage of Brown was devoted to his exhibitions, not his book, and there is no indication that any copies of the English edition of the Narrative made their way to the United States for review.

RELATED CONTENT
MAP
TIMELINE
March 23, 1849
Henry Brown enlists the help of a free black and a white slave owner and is sealed in a wooden box and shipped to Philadelphia.
March 24, 1849
Henry Brown, a slave from Richmond who was shipped the day before in a box to Philadelphia, is delivered to the office of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. Having risked death to make the journey, he emerges a free man.
May 1849
Late in the month, Henry Brown appears before the New England Anti-Slavery Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, where he speaks of his escape from slavery. He adopts the name Henry Box Brown.
April 11, 1850
The moving panorama, Henry Box Brown's Mirror of Slavery, opens in Boston, Massachusetts. Brown and James C. A. Smith, a free black who had helped him escape slavery, exhibit in New England throughout the summer.
August 30, 1850
Henry Box Brown is assaulted on the street in Providence, Rhode Island. With passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill imminent, he believes himself to be at risk of being captured and re-enslaved in Virginia.
October 1850
Henry Box Brown flees the United States to avoid being re-enslaved by the Fugitive Slave Law and travels to England with James C. A. Smith.
November 12—December 5, 1850
Henry Box Brown's Mirror of Slavery, a moving panorama, exhibits in Liverpool, England.
May 1851
Early in the month, the "First English Edition" of the Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself is published in Manchester.
May 22, 1851
To promote the publication of Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, Brown has himself shipped in his original box from Bradford to Leeds, England.
Probably after July 1852
The "Second English Edition" of Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself is published in Bilston, a town near Wolverhampton in West Midlands, England.
FURTHER READING
  • Brown, Henry Box. Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself. Manchester, England: Printed by Lee and Glynn, 1851.
  • Ernest, John. Introduction to Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, by Henry Box Brown, 1–38. Edited by John Ernest. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.
  • Newman, Richard. Introduction to Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, by Henry Box Brown, xi–xxxiv. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Ruggles, Jeffrey. The Unboxing of Henry Brown. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2003.
  • Stearns, Charles. Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped from Slavery, Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Wide. Written from a Statement of Facts Made by Himself. With Remarks Upon the Remedy for Slavery. Boston, Massachusetts: Brown and Stearns, 1849.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Ruggles, Jeffrey. Narratives of Henry Box Brown, The. (2022, March 22). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/narratives-of-henry-box-brown-the.
MLA Citation:
Ruggles, Jeffrey. "Narratives of Henry Box Brown, The" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (22 Mar. 2022). Web. 09 Dec. 2022
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