While many know the incredible story of Henry ‘Box’ Brown who escaped slavery by shipping himself from Virginia to Pennsylvania, Lear Green’s story has been somewhat lost to history. Greer was an enslaved woman who made a daring escape in order to marry the man of her choice and bear free children. Green was able to gain her freedom after being stashed away in a sailor’s chest in a grueling journey from Maryland to Pennsylvania.
Green was born in 1839 and was purchased by a Maryland butter merchant as a young child. At the age of 18, Green met a free Black man, William Adams, who asked for her hand in marriage. Green initially refused the offer as she didn’t want children born into slavery and sold off. However, she was convinced to escape by way of a plan hatched by Adams and his mother, also a free woman.
Adams’ mother traveled to Baltimore from New York via the Erricson steamer line with an old chest that was stocked with food, water, bedding and other small comforts. Adams’ mother pulled off the feat at the risk of her own safety, periodically checking in on Green for the 18-hour journey. After arriving in Philadelphia and meeting with famed Underground Railroad conductor William Still, Green made her way further North to marry Adams and head to Canada.
Green was named as a fugitive slave and a manhunt was launched to return her to the slave owner. Adams was named as the main accomplice. Even with the possibility of being caught looming over them, Green and Adams married and settled in Elmira, New York.
The couple enjoyed just three years of freedom and wedded bliss. Green suddenly died at the age of 21 for unknown reasons. Green’s escape was one of several related events that was supported by the efforts of the Underground Railroad.