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The Many Resurrections of Henry Box Brown

Martha J. Cutter

Thursday, February 29, 2024, at 2pm ET

Approximately 60 minutes. This virtual program is free, but registration is required. You will be sent an email with a link and instructions on how to join the program upon registration. Closed captioning is available as an option via Zoom’s live transcription.

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On March 23, 1849, Henry Brown climbed into a large wooden postal crate and was mailed from slavery in Richmond, Virginia, to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Box Brown,” as he came to be known after this astounding feat, went on to carve out a career as an abolitionist speaker, actor, magician, hypnotist, and even faith healer, traveling the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada until his death in 1897. In this virtual talk, Martha J. Cutter reveals new insights into Henry Brown’s life, how he made himself a spectacle on abolitionist lecture circuits via outlandish performances, and how he reinvented himself again and again after repeatedly falling out of favor. Cutter shows how stories about Brown were invented and embellished over time, continuing to recreate his intriguing, albeit fragmentary and elusive story―fostering a new understanding not only of Brown’s life but of modern Black performance art that provocatively dramatizes the unfinished work of African American freedom.



Martha CutterMartha J. Cutter is professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Connecticut. She is the author of The Many Resurrections of Henry Box Brown, The Illustrated Slave: Empathy, Graphic Narrative, and the Visual Culture of the Transatlantic Abolition Movement, 1800–1852; Lost and Found in Translation: Contemporary Ethnic American Writing and Politics of Language Diversity; Unruly Tongue: Identity and Voice in American Women’s Writing, 1850–1930; and the co-editor of Redrawing the Historical Past: History, Memory, and Multiethnic Graphic Novels.


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