A Latter-Day Henry Box Brown

Published:April 10, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

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