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Henry 'Box' Brown (Virginia Slave Who Escaped To Freedom In A Box) Film Biopic Currently In The Works

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by Vanessa Martinez
March 1, 2012 10:18 PM
7 Comments
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In our exclusive interview with writer/director/producer Rob Underhill, an interview which will be posted on the site very soon, Underhill stated that a film biopic based on the Narrative of The Life of Henry Box Brown is currently in the works.

Underhill helmed the arthouse film DAR HE: The Lynching of Emmet Till; that film, based on his critically acclaimed short Wolf Call, just premiered at the Pan African Film Festival last month.

The script for the Henry Box Brown film is being finalized; actor Mikey Wiley, who played all the characters in the DAR HE film, will most likely portray the Virginian slave in the 19th century who escaped slavery by traveling inside a wooden box. Unlike DAR HE, in which Wiley played all the characters, the Henry Box Brown project will bring on a full cast and hopefully some A-list talent, according to Underhill.

For those of you not familiar with the Henry Box Brown story, here's a short history recap (courtesy of Library of Virginia):

Born into slavery in Louisa County, Henry Brown (1815 or 1816–after February 26, 1889) became a skilled worker in a Richmond tobacco factory. About 1836 he married Nancy, an enslaved woman owned by another master, and the couple had at least three children. Brown was able through overwork to rent a house for his family. In August 1848 Nancy Brown’s owner suddenly sold her and the children out of the state. With nothing to keep him in Richmond, Brown resolved to escape to freedom. Working with a free black dentist and a white shoemaker, he concocted a scheme to ship himself north. On March 23, 1849, his co-conspirators sealed Brown into a wooden crate and placed it on a train bound for Philadelphia. After twenty-six hours, Brown arrived at the office of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, where he was unboxed, alive and free.

As Henry Box Brown, he began an active career lecturing and performing. He worked with the artist Josiah Wolcott and others to create a moving panorama to illustrate his lectures about slavery. Henry Box Brown’s Mirror of Slavery opened in Boston on April 11, 1850. During the lecture, Brown would climb into a replica of the box and re-create his unboxing. By October 1850, after an abortive kidnapping attempt and fearful that he would be arrested and returned to Virginia under the new federal Fugitive Slave Act, Brown sailed for England, where he remained for more than a decade.

In his performances in England and Wales, Brown mingled his antislavery lecture and panorama with entertaining acts. In 1875 he returned to the United States with a wife, whom he had married by 1859, and a daughter. The family continued to perform as late as February 1889. The date and place of his death are unknown.

More details on the project will be released in about two weeks; I will definitely provide you with that information as soon as it becomes available.

Meanwhile, I plan to read Henry Box Brown narrative; most likely a book-to-film review will follow..

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7 Comments

  • Erich Hicks | March 7, 2012 3:39 PMReply

    The real ‘Stagecoach Mary’ story:

    Mary Fields, Black Mary, and ‘Stagecoach Mary’ are all one of the same person. Mary was born in 1832, a slave in Arkansas and was owned by a Catholic family; the plantation owner had a single girl child the same age as Mary. Mary’s mother was the House Slave Servant and the plantation owners’ favorite cook; therefore Mary was always in the main house, in the kitchen and not in the fields, as a Field Slave. Mary’s father was a Field Slave, and Field Slaves were not allowed in the Main House, much less, to court a House Slave. Mary’s mother became pregnant by Mary’s father and he was beaten and sold to another plantation for getting Mary’s mother pregnant. After Mary’s birth, Mary’s mother and her were allowed to stay in the main house, and Mary became the plantation owner daughters’ playmate, therefore being the owners daughter’s playmate, Mary was allowed to read and write, a rarity for that time.

    After the emancipation and coming into adulthood, Mary was 6 feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. Mary became her own woman and traveled solely from Arkansas, up and down the Mississippi River, to Ohio, then finally to Montana where she got her nickname at the turn of the 20th Century. She earned this nickname by working for the “United States Postal System” delivering the United States Mail through adverse conditions that would have discouraged the most hardened frontiersmen of her time. All by herself, she never missed a day for 8 years, carrying the U. S. Mail and other important documents that helped settle the wild open territory of central west Montana.

    Mary had no fear of man, nor beast, and this sometimes got her into trouble. She delivered the mail regardless of the heat of the day, cold of night, wind, rain, sleet, snow, blizzards, Indians and Outlaws.

    Mary was a cigar smoking, shotgun and pistol toting Negro Woman, who even frequented saloons drinking whiskey with the men, a privilege only given to her, as a woman. However, not even this fact, sealed Mary's credentials given to her, her credentials boasted that, “She would knockout any man with one punch”, a claim which she proved true.

    Her fame was so acclaimed, even the Actor, Gary Cooper, two time Academy Award Winner, told a story about her in 1959 which appeared in Ebony Magazine that same year. While, Annie Oakley and Martha Canary (Calamity Jane) were creating their history with Buffalo Bill, Stagecoach Mary was making “her Epic Journey!”

    Despite Mary's hardness, she had another side of her, a kindness so strong, even today, in the beginning of the 21st Century, the town of Cascade, Montana, and other surrounding communities celebrate her birthday. The Epic movie is in pre-production mode. Check out website at http://www.stagecoachmary.net

  • urbanauteur | March 8, 2012 9:40 PM

    Thanx [E} for that exhausive entre`, she (stagecoach mary) along with Harriet Tubman(spike lee i read waxs researching it for a possible movie) Sojourner Truth,Ida b.Wells,Francis Harper & fight back sister/others would be a grand invasion of movie excitement, let's keep it movin;-)

  • Erich Hicks | March 7, 2012 3:38 PMReply

    Keep history alive by telling that history:

    Read the greatest 'historical novel', Rescue at Pine Ridge, the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers. The website is: http://www.rescueatpineridge.com This is the greatest story of Black Military History...5 stars Amazon Internationally, and Barnes & Noble. Youtube commercials are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD66NUKmZPs and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVslyHmDy9A&feature=related

    Rescue at Pine Ridge is the story of the rescue of the famed 7th Cavalry by the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. The 7th Cavalry was entrapped again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. This story is about, brutality, compassion, reprisal, bravery, heroism, redemption and gallantry.

    You’ll enjoy the novel that embodies the Native Americans, Outlaws and African-American/Black soldiers, from the south to the north, in the days of the Native American Wars with the approaching United States of America.

    The novel was taken from my mini-series movie with the same title, “RaPR” to keep the story alive. The movie so far has the interest of, Mr. Bill Duke, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman, James Whitmore Jr., Reginald T. Dorsey and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with, in starring in this epic American story.

    When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; http://www.alphawolfprods.com and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for the US Postal System in Montana, in the 1890's, “spread the word”.

    Peace.

  • Donella | March 4, 2012 3:17 PMReply

    William Still, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, or Sojourner Truth might be alternatives.

  • jmac | March 1, 2012 10:56 PMReply

    I remember when they profiled him on TJMS little known black history fact. One: that negro never did try to get his wife and children out of slavery despite his finances and celebrity. Two: he was criticized for so greatly publicizing his escape (for big bucks) that it precluded other runaway slaves from using the same method to reach freedom.

  • urbanauteur | March 3, 2012 1:13 PM

    Nat Turner,Stagecoach Mary or even Rufus Buck, would be a perfect counterpoint to this mud rat, i read up on him years ago, he was a opportunist & charlatan, it rings very familar to our current crop of tin-plated david dukes.

  • other song | March 2, 2012 11:24 AM

    sounds like a Tyler Perry type scenario. That's why I'll never give a f*ck whether some Black man/woman becomes a millionaire/billionaire/owns a studio/plane if their work doesn't help build the necessary foundation. And sadly, a lot of these entertainers become rich exploiting our pain/ignorance/poverty

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