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Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped from Slavery

Some slave narratives were handed down verbally, while others were written by slaves or recounted by slaves and then transcribed by a friend or family. These stories highlighted the arduous life of the industrious slaves, including depictions of brutal masters, whippings, difficulty in learning to read and write, slave auctions, and successful and unsuccessful efforts to flee the plantations. One of the distinctive aspects of the slave tale is the testimony or letter of authenticity, generally produced by a white editor or abolitionist friend of the narrator.

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Authors of color need the endorsement of whites who could vouch for their honesty and the validity of their stories before they could be published. Henry Brown was born in Louisa County, Virginia, in 1816 and became known as Henry “Box” Brown after the box he used to escape slavery (Brown 51). His mother and father were both enslaved, but they subsequently bought their own freedom. In this paper, we will discuss the various impacts that slavery has in the American history such as poor progress for the enslaved and cruelty from their master.

Slavery is a difficult topic to broach because it elicits such a wide range of responses from various individuals. A person is said to be enslaved if they are under the control of another person. The slave’s master has complete control over where, when, and what the slave does. The freedom of the slave is severely curtailed, and he is forced to execute tasks he does not want to. This bondage restricts the slave’s rights and freedoms in the same way that a person who is free does not.

In reconstructing the experience of so many individuals who were undervalued and dehumanized based on their skin color, slave narratives are an essential part of the process. Slavery is frequently shown in the story as a hellish experience. A personal crisis drives the ultimate escape in these eyewitness stories of the terrible everyday existence under slavery. The author or narrator professes a belief in God and upholds human dignity in accordance with the principles of the United States Constitution. Aiming for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the story captures the American national concept of individualism and freedom (Brown 79). After the 1860s, the bulk of Black female slave tales were published. Rather of ending in “free” states, the story concludes with a renewed commitment to anti-slavery advocacy via the identifying and avowal of the self. Slave voting should be legalized, a new president should be chosen, and the North should hold the South accountable, according to Brown’s story.

Many of the issues that African American men and boys confront today stem from their upbringing in a culture molded by racism. Sadly, the legacy of years of institutionalized racism has not been lifted from the shoulders of black males in the United States. Since the onset of slavery, a prevalent motif among African American males has been their strong regard and adoration for their mothers, often elevating them to the status of angels or deities. African American men’s belief in the divinity of their mothers may be traced back over several centuries.

Authorial voice in this slave tale contributes to the compelling impact of these accounts of perseverance and survival. It would have been difficult for Henry Brown to maintain his identity in the story while appealing to white audiences. The slave narrative’s capacity to convey a great account of survival and escape was secondary to its intended role as an anti-slavery text that would persuade white Northerners to embrace the abolitionist cause. Several times in the story, the author speaks directly to the reader, making them feel the suffering he must have gone through as a character in his own story. For instance, the writer says that “my master knew all the circumstances of the case which I have just related, but he never intervened…” (Brown 79). This statement indicates the tough times and cruelty that the slaves were going through from their masters.

Many people associate the word “slavery” with the enslavement of Africans. It had, however, existed in the past at various points and times. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, the Aztecs, the Greeks, and even the Incas all had slaves, as did many other cultures. Some of the most powerful empires in history were constructed on the basis of slave labor in the old days. Even after slavery and the slave trade were abolished in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the practice of slavery persisted in some form. Slavery and the ownership of slaves were made illegal by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This disgusting behavior continues to be practiced by many. Slavery has evolved to blend in with modern society by adopting new forms. Modern slavery includes sex trafficking, forced marriages, child sex trafficking, bonded labor or debt bondage, human trafficking, forced labor, forced child labor, and domestic servitude, all of which are common across the world.

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It is one illustration of the sufferings that slaves in the South endured in the middle of the 19th century. Readers are still urged to evaluate the system that permits one man to enslave another, and steal without warning all that is important to him, through Brown’s tale (Brown 79). Despite the promise of a slaver who he was paying to keep his family, Brown opted to undertake the disastrous trek in the box towards the North when his family was snatched from him and sold into slavery again. This was despite the fact that the box was just three feet long, two feet broad, and 2.5 feet high, and nevertheless Brown made the 27-hour trek to Philadelphia. Even though the package said “this side up with care,” he was forced to travel with his head down, which restricted his air flow and put all of his body’s weight on his neck, making his voyage a painful one (Brown 86). Such aspects from the narrative depict the hardship and cruelty that slaves undergo in their quest for freedom.

Cash crops like tobacco, cotton, and sugarcane were boosted as a result of the slave trade in the southern states of the United States. The southern states became the economic powerhouse of the United States as a result. The use of slaves on the southern plantation results in an increase in cash crop production. They were fed, housed, and given a basic education in return for their labor. With the ideal climate, wealthy landowners turned to slave traffickers who brought in workers for their rice, tobacco, and sugarcane plantations. After being sold to the highest bidder, the slaves were made to labor on the plantations of their new owners. Increased production of cash crops in the South led to a rise in the wealth of the region.

Additionally, slavery cuts the connections that people have with their families thus making them to live lonely lives. Brown was unable to live with his family since he was enslaved. He had no control over the sale once it had taken place. His companion James Caesar Antony Smith, who was now a free black man, and a white sympathizer named Samuel Alexander Smith helped him arrange an escape months later. On his way to freedom, he spent 27 hours in a solitary confinement box (Brown 87). However, his stories were retold through plays, moving panoramas, and performances when he was free to live as a man.

Throughout the story, Brown brings up the problems his family has had with the plantation as it has passed down through the generations. The fact that Brown had been notified that his wife and children had been removed from their house and transported to an auction mart to be sold compelled him to devise a strategy to escape slavery using a box. The fact that Henry was a slave did not deter his overseer from doing something to harm him. Maintaining a family was difficult for slaves because their owners considered everyone to be a brother or sister. When Brown is separated from his wife and children, he places himself in a box and is transported to a free state, where he emerges as a freeman.

Many or most slaves in the 1800s were abused, resulting in slaves considering methods to escape. Henry Box Brown sent himself to Philadelphia in a wooden box. Slavery, he insisted, was intolerable no matter how good the conditions were, and that was the primary reason he wanted to get out. Abolitionist Harriet Tubman is most known for building the underground railroad, which liberated thousands of enslaved people for decades. Individuals like Harriet Tubman and Henry Box Brown are considered to be heroes because of the effort they performed to help the United States achieve independence. Tobacco slave Henry Box Brown was one of the “luckier” slaves in terms of living conditions and treatment, but the loss of freedom he faced was still a serious problem for him as well as every other slave on that plantation (Brown 62). Henry Brown was transported to the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society after a 27-hour trek to ensure his safety during his departure.

Even though Henry Brown was able to free himself, millions of other slaves were unable to do so due to a political impasse, forcing them to endure the horrendous living circumstances that were the norm at the period. It is widely accepted that slavery led to a deadly Civil War, a legacy of vicious and often terrible racial oppression, and a “regional underdevelopment and poverty” that lasted until the “sunbelt” arose in the 1970s, according to author Robin L Einhorn. 2 During the 1800s, African Americans and Native Americans were subjected to severe oppression and had no place to flee.

They had to put up with all of the penalties and exhaustion in order to do their masters’ job, which is just plain wrong. Over 300 slaves were tied up on the street, and among them was Henry’s pregnant wife and three children, whom he had to leave behind in order to become a free man. Henry felt he owed it to his family, so he wrote a book about his ordeal and launched a campaign to earn money to help him preserve his family and become a free African American citizen of the United States. As a whole, the narrative of Henry Box Brown has enriched and improved my understanding of slavery.

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As a final thought, slavery was one of the worst experiences in American history, and that the racial oppression, abuse, and mistreatment of African Americans only strengthened my conviction that slavery was one of the worst things that could have happened to an innocent person who had no say in anything about their lives. The narrative of Henry Box Brown’s life further bolstered my belief that slavery was not just a terrible experience for African Americans, but for anybody who had to experience it. Because of the harsh steps that slaves had to go through in order to be freed, and the cruelty and torturous situations that slaves had to endure during the middle 1800’s.

The fact that he chose to risk his life in such a risky undertaking proves how terrible slavery was. He would sooner die than be a slave for another day. There is no justification for denying fundamental human rights and freedoms to a fellow human being. To expose individuals to such humiliation and brutality merely because they are different or cannot stand up for themselves is an appalling behavior, according to the article. There is no superior human being to any other. Even before God, we are all on the same level.

Work Cited

Brown, Henry Box. Narrative of Henry Box Brown: Who Escaped from Slavery Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Wide. Brown and Stearns, 1849.

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