I know a reasonable amount of black history – I can recite a few lines from Paul Laurence Dunbar, I know who Dred Scott was, I understand the pernicious effects of Jim Crow – but I had never heard the story of Henry Box Brown, whose middle name says it all.
As retold by Alison Leigh Cowan today in the New York Times, abolitionists sent Brown from the South to the North in a special delivery box.
“He came to me on Saturday morning last in a box tightly hooped, marked ‘this side up’ by overland express, from the city of Richmond!!’’ Mr. McKim wrote an associate in New York named Sydney Howard Gay. “Did you ever hear of any thing in your life to beat that? Nothing that was done on the Barricades of Paris exceeded this cool and deliberate intrepidity.’’
It’s not known if any other slaves managed to escape in this fashion, but Cowan says several tried unsuccessfully, but gave themselves away by making noise in transit. The online version of her article is worth a look because it also includes many original documents related to the fantastic escape.
The lithograph is a detail from “The Resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia. Who escaped from Richmond Va. in a Box 3 feet long 2 1/2 ft deep and 2 ft wide” by Samuel W. Rowse, 1850. Credit: Virgina Historial Society.
(Check out John's weekly show Off-Ramp.)