Thursday, January 24, 2008
Henry's Freedom Box
Levine, Ellen. 2007. HENRY’S FREEDOM BOX. Ill. by Kadir Nelson. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780439777339 [Suggested Grade Levels Pre-K - 5]
Henry Brown was born a slave. He grew up being owned by others. He was taken from his mother and had his own family taken from him. He put himself in a box to be mailed to a place where he could be free. His is one of the most famous stories of the underground railroad. Levine’s eloquent storyline, combined with Nelson’s dramatic illustrations, hones in on the evil injustice of slavery.
The cutout pictures of Henry’s travels in the box enable the reader to get a taste for what that twenty six hour journey might have been like without frightening young children. The artwork reveals the raw emotion and often hopelessness of family, friends, and fellow workers.
This version of the story ends when he arrives in Philadelphia with the picture matching the famous lithograph by Samuel Rouse of the box being opened. This lithograph was used to raise funds for abolishing slavery.
Discuss the things a slave could NOT do. [Have a birthday, sing in the street, get paid for their work, stay with their families…]
Henry Box Brown wrote a narrative of his life and it is available on the web. Parts of this could be reviewed to add more detail and follow up to the sparse story. http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/brownbox/brownbox.html
Geminilink.org has a video of “The Ballad of Henry Box Brown.” View the video for another version of the escape.
Other books illustrated by Nelson:
Nelson, Kadir. HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS. ISBN 9780803728509
Another picture book on the Underground Railroad:
Levine, Ellen. IF YOU TRAVELED ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. ISBN 9780590451567
By Susie Demarest