Henry ‘Box’ Brown

Varsity News photo / LOREAL DODSON

Artist Rory Rennick (left), performing as Henry "Box" Brown and assisted by wife Angela, involved history professor Roy Finkenbine in his performance.



Magician and motivational artist Rory Rennick brought to life professor Henry “Box” Brown, a runaway slave turned iconic figure of the abolitionist movement, in Grounds Coffee Haus performance Feb. 13.

The hour-long show was centered on Brown’s “great escape” from Virginia to Pennsylvania and the events surrounding it.

Brown sealed himself in a wooden crate to be shipped from the slave state to freedom, with a total travel time of 27 hours. He was cramped inside a box barely big enough to hold him.

Rennick sprinkled jokes and magic tricks throughout his monologue, calling upon audience members to participate.

Performing such tricks as making a desk float and cards appear from thin air, he engaged the audience to a point where some moved up to the front row so they could get the best possible view of his final tricks.

“I was skeptical at first,” said freshman Heaven Harris, “but after a few minutes I was happily entertained.”

Detroit Mercy history professor Roy Finkenbine, an attendee, was picked to participate on stage.

“I thought it was a good blend of history and entertainment,” he said.

Rennick, assisted by wife Angela, explained his attraction to bringing Brown to life, drawing some parallels from their lives.

With few African American magicians, Rennick wanted to pay homage to a pioneer in his craft.

“Knowing what Henry Brown went through to survive, to simply live a free life, left no excuse for me to not live my life to its fullest,” said Rennick. “I am honored to be able to use my abilities to continue to share his story.”