Inspired by Real Stories: Henry "Box" Brown

For the last few years I have been researching the writings of the Underground Railroad. In my research I discovered William Still and the true story he tells of real people in a book he wrote in 1872 entitled The Underground Railroad. Henry "Box" Brown is a story that stands out. 


Picture Book author, Ellen Levine retells the story with illustrations by Kadir Nelson.  

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad begins with young Henry as a slave. The story tells of his hardships and unthinkable sadness. Readers learn that when he becomes a father, he is torn apart from his  wife and children. Henry is so desperate to escape slavery, he imagines mailing himself to Philadelphia, a place where there are no slaves in 1849. With the help of others who believed slavery to be wrong, he accomplishes this seemingly impossible feat.   

Levine and Nelson weave together words and illustrations to tell Henry's story in a way that keeps an important story of determination through extreme circumstances alive.  Imagine the learning that goes on in classrooms where children consider sitting in a box and ponder what it would be like to be turned upside-down and sideways on the journey Henry takes. 

For adults and children, the story is an excellent example of the leadership process in action.  Henry was able to see in his mind a way to escape.  He gathered assistance and implemented his plan.  In the end, through much difficulty he achieved that freedom he imagined.