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Henry Brown escapes from slavery

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  • "Song Composed by Henry Box Brown on His Escape From Slavery"
After Henry Box Brown escaped from slavery in a box shipped from Richmond to Philadelphia in March 1849, he composed this song that he sang when appearing before antislavery meetings in Northern states.
Related Biographies:
  • Henry Box Brown (ca. 1815–after 1889). Image courtesy of Library of Congress.
    Henry Box Brown
« Return to Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

"Song Composed by Henry Box Brown on His Escape From Slavery"

Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, First English Edition (Manchester, Eng.: 1851), 60–61.

Henry Brown escaped from slavery in March 1849. His friends in Richmond packed him in a box and sent him by train and steamboat from Richmond to Philadelphia. Abolitionists in Philadelphia took delivery on Brown's box, and when he opened it he sang a hymn. Brown adopted Box as his middle name and toured Northern states speaking and performing at antislavery meetings. This song that he composed for those venues was a popular account of his escape and his hardship when packed in the box. Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, he fled to England, where he campaigned against slavery.

"Chorus
Brown laid down the shovel and the hoe,
Down in the box he did go,
No more Slave work for Henry Box Brown,
In the box by Express he did go"

SONG COMPOSED BY HENRY BOX BROWN, ON HIS ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY.
AIR—UNCLE NED.

I.
Here you see a man by the name of Henry Brown,
Ran away from the South to the North,
Which he would not have done but they stole all his rights,
But they'll never do the like again.
Chorus
Brown laid down the shovel and the hoe,
Down in the box he did go,
No more Slave work for Henry Box Brown,
In the box by Express he did go.
II.
Then the orders they were given and the cars they did start,
Roll along—Roll along—Roll along,
Down to the landing where the steamboat met,
To bear the baggage off to the North.
Chorus
Brown laid down the shovel and the hoe,
Down in the box he did go,
No more Slave work for Henry Box Brown,
In the box by Express he did go.
III.
When they packed the baggage on they turned him on his head,
There poor Brown liked to have died,
There were passengers on board who wished to set down,
And they turned the box down on its side.
Chorus
Brown laid down the shovel and the hoe,
Down in the box he did go,
No more Slave work for Henry Box Brown,
In the box by Express he did go.
IV.
When they got to the cars they throwed the box off,
And down upon his head he did fall,
Then he heard his neck crack, and he thought it was broke,
But they never throwed him off any more.
Chorus
Brown laid down the shovel and the hoe,
Down in the box he did go,
No more Slave work for Henry Box Brown,
In the box by Express he did go.
V.
When he got to Philadelphia they said he was in port,
And Brown he began to feel glad,
And he was taken on the wagon and carried to the place,
And left "this side up with care."
Chorus
Brown laid down the shovel and the hoe,
Down in the box he did go,
No more Slave work for Henry Box Brown,
In the box by Express he did go.
VI.
The friends gathered round and asked if all was right,
As down on the box they did rap,
Brown answered them saying "yes, all is right,"
He was then set free from his pain.
Chorus
Brown laid down the shovel and the hoe,
Down in the box he did go,
No more Slave work for Henry Box Brown,
In the box by Express he did go.