In a little over a week, I will be returning to the museum that altered my writing career and led to my passion–writing historical novels. On Saturday, November 17, at 1 p.m., I will be speaking about Henry “Box” Brown and Ellen Craft at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. A book signing will follow.
The last time that I was at the museum, it was 2007 and I was writing children’s books for VeggieTales. In fact, Nancy and I were in Cincinnati for a preview of the new VeggieTales movie, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, although we originally thought we would be attending the preview in Chicago. When the Chicago preview filled up, we wound up in Cincinnati, and we’re so glad we did.
Nancy and I had a free afternoon, so we wandered down by the river and came across a wonderful museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This was where I discovered an exhibit about a man I had never heard of before–Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who escaped by shipping himself in a box from Richmond to Philadelphia in 1849. Intrigued, I Googled Henry Brown when I returned home and was immediately drawn to his amazing story.
The result was The Disappearing Man, a novel based on Henry’s life. Last week, my third historical novel came off the press, The Vanishing Woman, a companion book based on another remarkable true story from the Underground Railroad–the story of Ellen and William Craft. So my thanks goes out to the Freedom Center, for I believe that walking into that museum was providential.
The same month that we went to Cincinnati and discovered Henry Brown’s story, VeggieTales suspended their production of books. As they say, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” In this case, He opened up every window in the house, not to mention the back door, side door, and sliding door.
By Doug Peterson