Of all the stories of people mailing themselves places, this one stands out.
On this day in 1849, a man escaped slavery in Virginia by mailing himself to Pennsylvania.
His name was Henry Brown, born sometime around 1815 and made to work on a tobacco farm, where he met his wife.
They had three kids and another on the way when Brown’s family was sold and sent away to North Carolina without him.
At his lowest point, Brown came up with a way to leave the plantation: he and people he knew arranged for a carpenter to build him a box, 3 feet wide, 2½ feet deep and 2 feet tall, with three small air holes.
They put Brown inside with some biscuits and water, and hired the Adams Express Company to send the box to some abolitionists in Philadelphia.
It was a dangerous trip.
Even though they’d marked the box “This Side Up With Care,” it wasn’t always kept that way; at least once Brown thought he was finished.
But after 27 hours, the box was delivered and opened; Brown got out, said “How do you do, gentlemen?” to the abolitionists, and recited a Psalm.
Once free, Brown became a traveling speaker and entertainer known as Henry “Box” Brown, who would reenact his escape and later became a stage magician and “mesmerist,” sort of like a hypnotist.
One perhaps sad irony of his story is that part of his magic act involved making objects disappear and reappear through a mirror box.
As a historian told the Washington Post, Brown escaped slavery through the box, but the box was always a part of his story.
And on this day in 2011, Dr. Michael Shannon was driving on the highway when another car hit him.
He was caught underneath his car, which then caught fire.
One of the paramedics who rescued him was Chris Trokey.
It turned out that when Trokey was a low-birth-weight newborn, a doctor gave him round the clock care and helped save him.
That doctor, of course, was Michael Shannon.
Sometimes people are in the right places at the right times.
Slavery cost him his family. That’s when Henry ‘Box’ Brown mailed himself to freedom. (Washington Post)
Little Known Black History Fact: Henry ‘Box’ Brown (Black America Web)
OC Paramedic Helps Rescue Doctor Who Saved His Life as Baby; Pair Reunited (KTLA)
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Image: “The resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia, who escaped from Richmond Va. in a bx 3 feet long 2 1/2 ft. deep and 2 ft wide” (Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Broadside Collection, portfolio 65, no. 16).