Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Failed "Box Brown"

Most students of America's slavery history are familiar or have at least heard of Henry "Box" Brown. In 1849, after witnessing his wife and children sold away, Brown had himself boxed up in a wooden crate and mailed to Philadelphia. The trip took 27 uncomfortable hours, but Brown gained his freedom and became acknowledged abolitionist speaker.

Browsing through some old newspapers online I came across a story in the April 16, 1860 edition of the Louisville Daily Courier about a Nashville slave that attempted Brown's method of escape, but failed.

It appears that Alex, a slave belonging to Newton McClure of Nashville, gained help from a sympathetic white man in Nashville who helped box him up and marked the parcel for delivery to a Mr. Johnson in Cincinnati, Ohio. According to the news story, titled "A Negro in a Bad Box," the crate was sent by rail to Louisville, the trip taking nine hours. Then the box was ferried across the Ohio River to Jeffersonville, Indiana, and was placed on another railroad to Seymour, Indiana. Before the box was loaded for the train trip east to Cincinnati, it fell from its end and the crate broke open revealing Alex inside.

Alex was "hauled out from his place of concealment amidst the laughter and jeers of the crowd." He was taken into custody and returned to Louisville where he was placed in jail to await his owner to come get him.

The article states that Alex said that the travel was rough. "Sometimes he was on his heels, and part of transit he was standing on his head." It was figured that he was in box for 14 hours and all that time without food and water. Alex claimed to his interrogators that the white man who had helped box him up had accompanied him on the train trips, but had fled when Alex was discovered. The Louisville paper doubted that claim, considered Alex a liar and "a great rascal." The Courier suspected "that the Nashvillians have now an Abolitionist 'among them.'"

No comments:

Post a Comment