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Javian Bennett

HIST 1301
Ms. Chandler

Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown

The Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown was written by Henry Brown himself. This

narrative took place during 1820 1848 along with the Antebellum Era. Brown was born into

slavery, being raised about false misconceptions of God and also being separated from his

mother and siblings. Henry Box Brown lets readers know through seven chapters how he was

property to many masters and responsibility to many different overseers. The highlight can be

seen in the narrative where Brown is separated from his wife and children leading him to place

himself in box shipped to a free state coming out alive leaving himself as a freeman.

Throughout the narrative Brown discusses the generational issues of his family with the

plantation. When I was informed that my wife and children were taken from their home, sent to the

auction mart and sold, [page 40] Brown was separated from his family, giving him the drive to

come up with the plan of escaping slavery through a box. Although Henry was somewhat treated

better as a slave it didnt stop his overseer from doing something to hurt him. A family was very

difficult to maintain as a slave since some masters believed that everyone was your brother and

sister. [Page 8]

As Brown grows up at his first plantation he begins to realize the differences in his appearance

compared to other slaves. At a young age Brown s master dress him and his brother in shoes,

vests and hats. When Brown and his brother would travel to the Mill a few miles out they would

come across slaves dressed in shirts made of coffee sacks and none other privileges of what

Henry had. These Slaves were dressed in shirts made of coarse bagging such as coffee sacks are
made from, Brown saw the differences in how he was treated when having more money than

that of others. Overseers saw hatred on him as they couldnt whip him since he was so


It was typical for slaves to always be put to work through any condition despite being sick or the

weather.[ Chapter 12 AMSCO] There was always constant separation between family and the

most frequents that occurred were that of the slaves being whipped, cow skinned and hung. One

of example of this occurrence was that am man was given 200 lashes for essentially being sick

not being able to provide for the plantation. For no other crime than sickness, inflicted two-

hundred lashes upon his bare back; [page 24] Henry Brown can relate to the partial points of

having a typical slave live, while actually believing that his master was a god. Looking up to him

as a leader since he already had control on everyone. These events were typical because if there

wasnt enough production through the slaves that meant that the masters were losing money so

gave big punishment so that it wouldnt happen again.

Although Henry was only able to relate to one characteristic of having a typical slave live. He

was at the same time far from the typical slave life. He didnt have to do much labor as a young

child growing up. Henry was able to own his own home and have a family to provide for all

together. The rent of my house, my own ties to my master, [Page 39] not only that but, Brown

was also able to prevent himself from being whipped compared to other slaves. It wasnt typical

at all for slaves to have this type of life. [AMSCO 12] This is because they were slaves they were

always treated like animals and if not worst, put into extreme conditions, scarce food, and

diseases. [AMSCO 4]

By writing this narrative, the author, Henry Brown, is trying to inform the reader all men should

have equal liberty. He mentions but I was forgetting the battle of liberty, to show one of his reasons
of making the action that he did. When he says a country whose most honoured writings

declare that all men have a right to liberty [ Page 1] he is trying to show the contradiction in the

system since he himself is not free. Although he had a family, Brown wasnt descriptive as to

how he met his wife and created such a strong bond, and to also have kids without some

punishment. The Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown is written to make aware and

encourage abolitionist. In the beginning of the narrative it shows letters from individuals who

support Henry Browns Panorama. Browns action show how he encouraged others through the

letters and how individuals found it interesting and aspiring.

I would have to say that I really enjoyed this book because it helped me to understand some of

my history as person a little bit more. I liked to hear it from a slaves point of view rather than

the ones who watched around. This piece just makes me a little bit more well aware f how things

used to function in the pass. Just how determined he was to go from one state to another to be

free through strict faith and determination leaves me in awe of Henry Box Brown. I would

highly recommend to others so that the past of how African Americans were treated is put on a

higher bar and given more respect than what is today. Since I enjoyed this narrative so much it

deserves a strong 5 stars.


Chandler, Kimberly. The Old South and Slavery: 1820- 1860. Lecture Notes, History from
HAIS November 2016.

Library, UNC-CH University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999.

Newman, John J., and John M. Schmalbach. United States History: Preparing for the Advanced
Placement Examination. New York: AMSCO School Publications, 2015.