acrylic and gel transfer on canvas
48" x 53"Henry Brown's story:Henry was born into slavery in 1815 in Louisa County, Virginia. In 1830 he was sent to Richmond, Virginia to work in a tobacco factory where he met and married another slave, Nancy, and the couple had three children. Brown used his wages to pay Nancy's master for the time she spent caring for them. However, in 1848, his wife and children were sold to a slave trader and sent to North Carolina.
With the help of James C. A. Smith, and a sympathetic white storekeeper named Samuel Smith, Brown devised a plan to have himself shipped to a free state by Adams Express. Brown paid $86 (out of his savings of $166) to Smith, who contacted Philadelphia abolitionist James Miller McKim, who agreed to receive the box. Brown burned his hand with Oil of vitriol as an excuse for missing work.
During the trip, which began on March 23, 1849, Brown's box traveled by wagon, railroad, steamboat, wagon again, railroad, ferry, railroad, and finally delivery wagon. Several times during the 206 mile, 27-hour journey, carriers placed the box upside-down or handled it roughly, but Brown was able to remain still enough to avoid detection. The box containing Brown was received by McKim, and other members of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. When Brown was released, one of those present remembered his first words as "How do you do, gentlemen?" He then sang a Psalm he had previously selected for his moment of freedom.
Brown became a well-known speaker for the Anti-Slavery Society. He was bestowed the nickname of "Box" at a Boston antislavery convention in May 1849, and thereafter used the name Henry Box Brown. He published two versions of his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown; first in Boston in 1849 and the second in England in 1851. Brown exhibited a moving panorama titled "Mirror of Slavery" in the northeastern United States until he was forced to move to England after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Brown toured Britain with his antislavery panorama for the next 10 years, performing several hundred times a year and visiting virtually every town and city over that period. Brown stayed on the British show circuit for twenty-five years, until 1875. In the 1860s, he began performing as a mesmerist, and some time after that as a conjuror, under the show names Prof. H. Box Brown and the African Prince. Leaving his first wife and children in slavery (though he had the means to purchase their freedom); he married a second time, to a white British woman, and began a new family. In 1875, he returned to the U.S. with a family magic act. There is also a later report of the Brown Family Jubilee Singers. The cause and date of his death are unknown.