Henry stood outside of his rented Richmond home staring at the approaching wagon. He’d had time to consider this moment for some time but now that it was upon him, his mind drew blank. The tears that had left their tracks on his cheeks were gone and his mouth was dry and numb, unable to form the words he’d wanted to say even if the words had come.
He stepped out into the road as the wagon passed slowly by. In the back, covered with a canvas awning, sat a pregnant woman and three children, all in chains and crying. Henry reached out and grasped the woman’s hand and walked beside them until the pace of the wagon quickened. He remained motionless in the middle of the street as the faces peering back at him grew smaller and smaller.
“Out of the way, slave!”
Henry narrowly avoided the second wagon coming from behind and he felt the hot breath of the horse team on his neck. He looked up blankly at the driver. It was the Methodist minister who’d purchased his wife of twelve years, along with their children, for work in the swamps of North Carolina. The minister leaned over and spoke down to him calmly.
“Don’t pout; you’re permitted to find another wife...”
Twenty-five years later, Henry was living the good life. He’d become a successful author, speaker, and showman in England – as a magician. He worked hard to refine his act and the crowds that came to see him as the “African Prince” had their favorite tricks and would call them out to him at each show. But Henry Brown’s best trick, he’d only performed once – on March 23, 1849, when he stuffed himself into a 3’ x 2’ box and express-mailed himself to freedom in Philadelphia.