Henry Box Brown Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Slavery represents one of the darkest times in American history. This lesson plan examines the life and legacy of Henry Box Brown, a slave who escaped successfully. A text lesson and role-playing activity highlight critical facts.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • summarize the life of Henry Box Brown
  • analyze the issue of slavery in America during the 1800's


45 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.



  • Begin by reading the Henry Box Brown quote that opens the 'A Desperate Escape' section of the text lesson aloud to the class.
    • What is the message that is being delivered in the quote?
    • Who do you think might have uttered these words and when might the word have been said?
  • Distribute the paper copies of the text lesson to the class, one to each student.
  • Ask the students to read the introduction and the 'A Desperate Escape' and 'Biography' sections of the text lesson.
    • Did anyone guess that these words were spoken by an enslaved African American man in 1800's America?
    • What were the risks taken by slaves who tried to escape during this time?
  • Tell the class to read the remainder of the text lesson.
    • How would you describe the character of the men who helped Henry Box Brown ship himself out of slavery?
    • Why was Frederick Douglass resistant to Henry Box Brown's methods of sharing his experience?
    • What legacy was left by Henry Box Brown?
  • Hand out the paper copies of the worksheet to the class.
  • Instruct the students to work independently to complete the worksheet on Henry Box Brown using what they learned about him from the text lesson.
  • When everyone has completed the worksheet, review each question on the worksheet as you provide the correct answers to the class.

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