What evidence is there of a black presence in Britain and north west England?

Narrative of the Life of Henry 'Box' Brown

Published by Thomas G Lee, 1851

In the collection of the John Rylands Library

See this object at The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

Narrative of the Life of Henry 'Box' Brown

The second edition of Henry 'Box' Brown's Narrative was published in 1851 by Thomas G Lee, Minister of the New Windsor Chapel in Salford. This rare edition of the book, now in the collection of the John Rylands library at the University of Manchester, tells the story of Brown's remarkable escape from slavery in 1849. Assisted by the free black American James Caesar Anthony Smith, Brown was posted in a box from Richmond, Virginia to the northern city of Philadelphia. His escape made him the toast of the abolition movement and, in common with other black abolitionists, he later visited Britain to relay his story and help the cause.

He brought with him a remarkable diorama (or model), The Mirror of Slavery, and with it toured throughout Britain, including Darwen, Blackburn, Bolton, Atherton, Leigh, Carlisle and Manchester in the north west. His talks often included the re-enactment of his escape in the box and on one occasion he even had himself posted from Bradford to Leeds. Census evidence from 1871 lists his profession as public lecturer and shows that he eventually settled at 87 Moreton Street, Cheetham, Manchester, with his English wife Jane, two daughters, a son and one servant.

Watch a drama performance about Henry 'Box' Brown.

This information was provided by curators from The Whitworth Art Gallery.