Henry's Freedom Box

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

On March 23, 1849, Henry Brown began one of the most dramatic escapes from slavery in American history. A friend named Samuel A. Smith helped Brown hide in a box that shipped from Richmond to Philadelphia. In just over 24 hours, with hardly any food and water and partly upside-down, Henry Brown traveled by wagon, train, and boat until leaders of the Underground Railroad opened his box in Philadelphia.

James Miller McKim and William Still, the son of former slaves, helped free Henry “Box” Brown and set him on a course to become one of antebellum America’s most famous escaped slaves.

Story Reading Strategy

Discuss the book and the main character Henry Brown. What do we already know about Henry Brown? What do we know about slavery in the United States? Talk about the Underground Railroad and railroad terminology. Can anyone name another famous slave who used the Underground Railroad to gain freedom?

Essential Educational Elements

In reading this story and engaging in a fun learning activity, young readers will build reading skills, develop critical thinking skills, and make connections between characters in stories and real people.

  • Slavery: the practice of owning people as property.
  • Slave Market: a place where slaves were sold.
  • Underground Railroad: secret routes and methods that slaves took to escape to freedom.

Henry chose to go to Philadelphia because it was a place where he could be free. Think about a place that represents freedom to you. Where would you go if you were Henry “Box” Brown? Use the attached activity sheet to write your destination.

Title: Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Author: Ellen Levine
Illustrator: Khadir Nelson

Copyright: January 1, 2007

Publisher: Scholastic Press