The Journey of Henry Box Brown

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
The Journey of Henry Box Brown Movie Poster Image
Powerful tale of former slave with big ideas about freedom.
  • G
  • 2005
  • 28 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Tells the true story of a former slave's escape to freedom.

Positive Messages

Courage; perseverance; faith; bravery; the importance of freedom and understanding what it really means.

Violence & Scariness

Describes the confined setting of being shipped and restricted in a crate for hours. Basic slavery conditions are discussed.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Journey of Henry Box Brown is an educational, uplifting short film that tells the true story of a former slave who shipped himself to freedom in a crate in a harrowing 27-hour journey. In the animated short movie, Brown tells the story to a bird and various other animals, helping them understand the concept of and importance of freedom. Basic slavery conditions are discussed and include the selling of Brown's family, the deep sadness he experienced, and the hardships of slaves. Though his new friends grieve with him for the loss of his family, the focus is on the broader importance of freedom, the moral wrongness of slavery, and the powerful idea that no one is free unless we all are. These big ideas and the serious subject matter are told simply and positively in a way that young kids can understand. A perfect introduction to African-American history.

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What's the story?

Henry "Box" Brown (voiced by Alfre Woodard) is a former slave who has shipped himself to freedom. On the way, he meets a bird, a cricket, and a mouse, who ask him what a slave is and what it means to be free, and they listen to the sad story of how he lost his wife and children and decided to escape to freedom. Along the way, both Brown and his new friends discuss their favorite parts of freedom; what they enjoy the most about being able to sleep, eat, and sing when they want; and why freedom doesn't mean much if it's not something we all enjoy.

Is it any good?

This short animated movie takes a complex, heavy issue and manages to present it in a way that kids can grasp easily. Concepts of freedom are broken down into very basic everyday pleasures, and here Brown tells them to a friendly bird, mouse, and cricket, each of whom grapples with his own understanding of the idea. Though there are sad parts, and the realities of slavery -- including the splitting up and selling of families -- are not glossed over, this is a simple, uplifting, and educational presentation of serious subject matter that gives kids a way in. Plus, it ultimately not only reinforces strong moral messages, but it also celebrates all that is best in humanity, without ignoring some of the U.S.A.'s greatest failures. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about freedom. What is the best part of freedom for Henry Box Brown? What's your favorite part of being free?

  • Why does Brown free the horse at the end of the film? 

  • What does it mean when he says no one is free unless everyone is? Why is that so important?

Movie details

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For kids who love history

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