History

Henry 'Box' Brown

Brown, enslaved in Richmond, Virginia, convinced Samuel A. Smith to nail a box shut around him, wrap five hickory hoops around the box, and ship it to a member of the Vigilance Committee in Philadelphia. The box was 2 feet 8 inches wide, 2 feet deep and 3 feet long.

At 5 feet 10 inches and more than 200 pounds, Brown had very little space for movement. Even though the box was marked "This side up with care," he spent some of the time upside down. He could not shift his position because that might attract attention. Brown took only a little water to drink, or to splash on his face if he got too warm, and some biscuits. There were tiny holes within the box so he could breathe. In all, the trip took 27 long hours. When the box finally arrived in the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery office, four people locked the door behind them, knocked on the box, and opened it up. Henry stood up and reached out to shake their hands. He was a free man!

Henry 'Box' Brown went on to speak all over the U.S. and Europe about his escape. Samuel A. Smith tried to help another slave escape in the same way, but Smith was caught and sent to prison in Richmond for more than seven years.