Henry "Box" Brown

Henry "Box" Brown (1815-?), a celebrated fugitive, was born into slavery in Louisa County, Virginia. Brown became a skilled tobacco worker in Richmond and apparently received wages, with which he intended to buy his wife and children out of bondage. Brown’s owner, however, cheated him of the purchase money and then sold his wife and children to North Carolina in 1848. Enraged, Brown planned for flight. Working with two Richmond shopkeepers in 1849, he had himself sealed inside a packing crate that was three-feet long and two-and-a-half-feet wide. He then arranged for the transfer of the box to an antislavery office in Philadelphia. He soon became a major attraction at antislavery meetings, speaking and singing in seven states. During 1850 he joined Benjamin Roberts, a black Bostonian, on a New England tour displaying a diorama depicting Brown’s experiences. After an attempt to capture him in August 1850, he sailed to England where he again displayed his diorama and enjoyed further popularity on the antislavery lecture circuit. Brown may have settled then in England. NS, 15 June 1849; Lib., 31 May 1850; Henry Box Brown, Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped Slavery Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Wide, ed. Charles Stearns (Boston, 1849); William Still, The Underground Railroad (Philadelphia, 1872), 81-86; Pease and Pease, They Who Would Be Free, 36-38, 66.

Home | Biography