Recommended Grades: 4-6
Henry “Box” Brown was a slave in the 1800’s on a plantation near Richmond, Va. Song was an important part of his life and he sang for all aspects of it. When Henry’s wife and children were sold to another master, Henry’s song stopped. And in the silence, he thought of an ingenious way to escape slavery and find freedom.
Mentor Texts: Read aloud Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown in conjunction with Henry’s Freedom Box when discussing the Underground Railroad or the Civil War. Why did Henry’s plan work? Did others try after him? Why was music an important influence in the lives of slaves? Discuss these questions and encourage students to research to see if answers to these questions can be found.
Idea Development: I have read several picture books that have been written as the result of a true event (see Ducky or Henry’s Freedom Box). I love how authors read about something that is factual and turn it into a story that is accessible to kids of all ages. After reading aloud Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown (and other examples), ask students to brainstorm a list of historical events in their writer’s notebook. When students are looking for a writing piece, ask them to look further into the background of a historical event of their choice. You never know what they might find!
Note: The author’s note in the back provides detail as to how her version of Henry “Box” Brown’s life story came to fruition. Additionally, an excerpt from an actual letter of the man who met Henry “Box” Brown on his arrival to Pennsylvania is also provided.
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