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Henry “Box” Brown Mailed Himself to Freedom



Learning Black History Year Round

There are many stories told about extraordinary slave escapes. Without maps or compasses, many depended on quilts, songs, and even the North Star. But Henry “Box” Brown, using a wooden crate, shipped himself as cargo from Richmond, Va., to Philadelphia, Pa., where slavery had been abolished.

His ingenious escape would later become one of the best-known slave narratives in American history.

Brown was born enslaved in Louisa County, Virginia in 1815. At age 15, he was sent to Richmond to work in a tobacco factory. His life would take a tragic turn when his pregnant wife and three children were sold away from him. Devastated, he was determined to gain his freedom.

Brown, an active member of a local church, enlisted fellow parishioner James Smith and a white contact, Samuel Smith, to aid him in his escape. The contact in Philadelphia was another abolitionist and member of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society.

Brown was shipped by Adams Express Company on March 23, 1849, in a box measuring 3 feet long, 2 feet 8 inches deep, and 2 feet wide marked Dry Goods. It was lined with baize, a coarse woolen cloth, carrying with him a small amount of water and a few biscuits. There was a hole cut for air; it was nailed and tied with straps, and in large letters, This Side Up was written on the side.

During the 27-hour journey, Brown traveled by wagons, railroads, steamboats, ferries, and finally in a delivery wagon that brought the box to the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. However, during the travels, the box was turned upside down on several occasions and handled roughly. Brown said he sometimes felt his eyes swelling as if they would burst from their sockets; the veins on his were distended with pressure from the blood running to his head. He was finally relieved by two men who needed to sit and threw the box down to sit on it.

“I had risen, as it were, from the dead,” Brown wrote.

Brown arrived safely and soon began appearing at public antislavery events. He again showed his creativity in late 1849 when he hired artists and others to begin work on one of the first moving panoramas about slavery. (The moving panorama was an innovation on panoramic painting in the mid-19th century that became a popular form of entertainment in Europe and the U.S.)

In April 1850, his moving panorama “Mirror of Slavery” opened in Boston and was exhibited throughout the summer.

With the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act on August 30, 1850, it was no longer safe for him to remain in the Northern Free States, as he could be captured and returned to Virginia. He sailed to England in October 1850; his show performed throughout the country for the next 25 years.

Brown married and started a family with an English woman and returned to the United States in 1875, where he continued to earn a living as a magician, speaker, and hypnotist until at least 1889.

The last decade of his life was spent in Toronto, where he died on June 15, 1897.


Rent Relief in California: Understanding the State’s Program and How You Can Apply

Based on income level, qualified applicants can receive assistance with unpaid rent and utilities and with future payments.




Due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, paying rent has become a real struggle for millions of Californians. But help is available to renters and landlords through the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program. 

Based on income level, qualified applicants can receive assistance with unpaid rent and utilities and with future payments.

Funding comes from the $2.6 billion in federal emergency rental assistance provided to support both state and local rent relief programs in California. The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program isn’t the sole resource for rent relief for California renters and landlords; many cities and counties are either currently administering their own rent relief programs – or launching one soon.

Cities and counties with populations greater than 200,000 are employing one of three rent relief options: option A) the state-administered CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program; option B) a local city- or county-administered program using the same eligibility criteria as option A; and option C) a local city-or county-administered program using different eligibility criteria, in some cases, in combination with a portion administered by the state.

While the programs vary, the goals are the same: Keep people housed and provide quick assistance to those at the highest risk of eviction.

To simplify access to rent relief programs in California, the state launched The website directs renters and landlords to the programs that they may qualify for based on where they live. After applicants provide the address of their rental property (landlords) or their residents (renters), they are sent to a website where they can review eligibility criteria and complete an application. Applicants can also call the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Call Center (833-430-2122) to find out which program to apply for and get help in a variety of languages.

Who’s eligible for the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program

Renters who have suffered a financial hardship because of COVID-19 and are behind on rent or utilities (or need help paying upcoming bills) are eligible to apply. They must have an Area Median Income (AMI) below 80% for the county they live in (this amount is calculated for the applicant during the application process). Either a renter or a landlord can initiate an application, online or through the call center, and both are encouraged to participate to maximize the amount of assistance received. The state’s program is prioritizing applications from households at the highest risk of eviction – those under 50% of the Area Median Income.

Landlords participating in the program receive 80% of an eligible tenant’s unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, if they agree to waive the remaining 20% of unpaid rent. Renters whose landlords choose not to participate in the program can apply directly, and receive 25% of unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, which can help protect them from eviction under SB 91 if they pay that 25% directly to their landlords. Renters can also apply to receive financial assistance with future rent. They may also qualify for assistance with unpaid or future utility payments.

Applicant information is kept private. Renter’s information will not be shared with the landlord, and vice versa. Applicants may be eligible to participate in the program regardless of immigration status and proof of citizenship is not required. Rent relief assistance does not count as earned income and will not interfere with eligibility for any other state benefit assistance programs such as CalFresh.

The CA COVID-19 Rent Relief program is supported through a $3 million public education and outreach campaign, which includes radio, digital media, out-of-home, and print advertising. Thousands of statewide community-based organizations, trade and industry groups and businesses have been enlisted to assist with outreach to communities most in need. The state has also allocated $24 million to support on-the-ground organizations to work directly with applicants in communities throughout the state. To make an appointment with a local organization, applicants are encouraged to call 833-687-0967.

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Bay Area

CupCakin Bakeshop in Berkeley

The menu features multiple tasty flavors of cupcakes daily, and the shop also offers catering services and online orders.



CupCakin Bakeshop is a Back-owned bakery at 2391 Telegraph Ave. in  Berkeley, open from Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. for deliveries and takeout orders. 

The menu features multiple tasty flavors of cupcakes daily, and the shop also offers catering services and online orders. CupCakin Bakeshop  gives donations to different organizations and hospitals all over the Bay Area. Follow the shop on social media to learn more about the donations or take a glimpse of their yummy treats @CupCakinBakeShop Instagram page. Placeorders online at


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Bay Area

TownConnect Initiative Wish Program Downpayment Assistance



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