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A Latter-Day Henry Box Brown

April 10th, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe · 5 Comments

Washington City Paper reports on the 5×5 project in Washington, D.C., in which five curators invite five artists each to install temporary public artworks around the capital. The only local curator among the bunch, Laura Roulet, has tapped, as one of her five,

Wilmer Wilson IV, a bright new D.C. light who, covered in postage stamps, will attempt to mail himself from three different post offices in an homage to Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who actually did mail himself to freedom.

It might be a slight exaggeration to say that Henry Box Brown mailed himself; he did have help. James Caesar Anthony Smith, a free black, and Samuel Alexander Smith a white shoemaker and (ironically) a slaveowner, helped Brown by constructing the box, sealing him in it, and taking him to the post office, for shipment from Richmond to Philadelphia. There, James Miller McKim, a local leader of the Anti-Slavery Society, would be waiting, having been contacted by Samuel Smith.

Remarkably, it worked! I doubt that Mr. Wilson will be so lucky.

IMAGES: Wilmer Wilson IV by yfrog user timcraigpost

Tags: Around the State · Virginia Arts · Virginia History

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lynn // Apr 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Brilliant! Every American should know who Henry Box Brown is. Perhaps this public art is too subtle, but maybe it will help.

  • 2 B. Boyd // Apr 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Nice package.

  • 3 Brendan Wolfe // Apr 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Comment of the day. Bravo!

  • 4 Kate // Apr 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    How long did it take (to ship himself)?

  • 5 Brendan Wolfe // Apr 18, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Hi, Kate. It took about a day, several hours of which Brown spent completely upside down. He almost died as a result.

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