Tag Archives: John Brown

Photo Research and Editing: The John Brown Photos

It was long past the eleventh hour of my publication timetable and I still needed to get one last image to illustrate the article “‘-No Mortal Eye Can Penetrate’: Louis Ransom’s Commemoration of John Brown” which would be appearing in our Autumn issue. I turned to the Library of Congress’s website, found and saved the file along with the metadata in order to be able to cite it correctly, and sent the last of the material to our designer.

Six short weeks later, the Autumn 2012 issue of The Hudson River Valley Review was out to great acclaim, and just a few even shorter days after that I received my first correction. It was about that image, and it was from Jean Libby, who had been cited in the article as the curator and author of the John Brown Photo Chronology. It was clear that I had gotten something wrong. Continue reading

Marking John Browns Struggle For Human Rights

One hundred and fifty-three years ago this week John Brown led an anti-slavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, part of the radical movement of tens of thousands of Americans struggling to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War.

It’s often said that just one thing secured Brown’s place in the hearts of millions of Americans – his execution and martyrdom. But there is another more important reason to celebrate the life of John Brown – his courage in standing against unjust state and federal laws, the press, and popular culture in the cause of basic human rights. Continue reading

New John Brown Portrait Unveiling, Education Event Set

John Brown Lives! and North Country Community College have announced that Maine artist Robert Shetterly will be present for the unveiling of his portrait of abolitionist John Brown during Freedom Now, Freedom Then: The Long History of Emancipation, a two-day program designed for students, educators and the general public on November 30-December 1, 2012. The events will take place in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, New York.

Brown is one of the newest additions to the Americans Who Tell the Truth project that Shetterly began 10 years ago using portraits of contemporary and historical figures and their own words to offer a “link between a community of people who struggled for justice in our past and a community of people who are doing it now.”

With this portrait, Brown joins Shetterly’s pantheon of more than 180 Truth Tellers that includes Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth and Mark Twain from the nation’s past, and Bill McKibben, James Baldwin, Michelle Alexander, and Jonathan Kozol who are addressing some of humanity’s gravest concerns today.

Shetterly’s portraits have been exhibited across the country. His painting of Brown will be unveiled on Friday 30 November at North Country Community College, Saranac Lake campus, at the opening program of “Freedom Now, Freedom Then: The Long History of Emancipation”. Several other Shetterly paintings will also be exhibited at the college and at the other venues where events will be taking place.

Geared for area high school and college students, their teachers and professors, the Friday program of “Freedom Now, Freedom Then” will also feature independent scholar Amy Godine and Kenneth Morris, Jr., the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass.

Godine will talk about young men and women with North Country roots who have heeded the call for human freedman, including slain civil rights worker Andrew Goodman and criminal justice reformer Alice Green. A poster including Goodman, Green and four other civil rights champions done by Lake Placid artist Nip Rogers will also be on display.

Following in his forebear’s footsteps, Morris will talk with students about slavery in Douglass’ time and today, when more people are trafficked and held in slavery than at any other time in human history. Twenty-seven million people are enslaved in nearly every country on Earth, including the United States where State Department estimates that 15,000 women, men and children are trafficked each year. Morris will also discuss service-learning opportunities for students to join the 21st century abolitionist movement to end slavery once and for all.

Glory, the Edward Zwick film starring Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick, will be shown on Friday night (venue to be determined). Civil War Memory blogger Kevin Levin will lead a discussion immediately following the screening.

A cornerstone of John Brown Lives!’ work is to provide teachers in and outside of the classroom with high-caliber opportunities to engage with historians, scholars, anti-slavery activists and artists in an intimate setting. Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid will be the venue for a full day of workshops, presentations and conversations on the complex history of emancipation for educators, librarians, and the general public and will feature: Dr. Gloria Marshall-Browne on freedom and the Founding Documents- Dr. Margaret Washington on women and emancipation- Civil War Memory blogger Kevin Levin on film and emancipation- Magpie, the folk duo, on emancipation in song- Artist Robert Shetterly on art to promote courageous citizenship- Kenneth Morris, President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, on engaging youth, congregations and communities in emancipation today- and Dr. Franny Nudelman on emancipation our texts and textbooks.

David W. Blight, preeminent scholar on the U.S. Civil War, will give the closing keynote address, “The Historical Memory of the Civil War and Emancipation at 150” on Saturday night in Lake Placid (venue to be determined). Dr. Blight is the Director of the Center for Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University and the author of numerous award-winning books and publications including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era- A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation- and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory.

For more information, presenter bios, and a complete schedule of workshops, film and music programs, visit John Brown Lives! on Facebook or contact either Martha Swan, Executive Director John Brown Lives!, or Cammy Sheridan, Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at North Country Community College. Swan may be reached at 518-962-4798 or info@johnbrownlives.org. Sheridan is available at 518-891-2915, ext. 1271 or csheridan@nccc.edu.

John Brown Day Planned for May 5th

Frederick Douglass’ great-great-great grandson Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., will give the keynote address at the annual John Brown Day celebration to be held on Saturday, May 5, at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, NY. Morris will talk about the friendship and enduring legacy of Douglass and fellow abolitionist John Brown.

The two men first met in Massachusetts in 1848, a decade after Douglass successfully escaped from slavery on a Maryland plantation and eleven years before Brown’s history-changing raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. By the time they met, Douglass had become one of the most eloquent and sought-after champions of freedom and equal suffrage for women and men, regardless of race.

Founder and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, Morris will also discuss the Foundation’s work today to create a modern Abolitionist Movement in schools all over the country through the vehicle of Service-Learning.

There are an estimated 27 million men, women and children held in some form of slavery in the world today, generating billions of dollars along the supply chain of labor and products that make much of our daily lives possible.

Joining Morris will be Renan Salgado, a Human Trafficking Specialist based in Rochester, who will shed light in his remarks about slavery and trafficking in New York State today. According to the U.S. State Department, there are approximately 17,500 people trafficked into the U.S. each year. Along with California, Texas, and Florida, New York ranks among the states with the greatest incidence of documented slavery in the country.

Young, award-winning orators from the Frederick Douglass Student Club in Rochester will recite from Douglass’ speeches and excerpts from Brown’s letters. The folk quartet The Wannabees and the hip-hop recording artist S.A.I. will also perform.

John Brown Day revives the tradition dating back to the 1930s of making a pilgrimage to remember and honor Brown by laying a wreath at his grave. Over the last 13 years, the grassroots freedom education project John Brown Lives! has worked to keep that tradition alive and relevant.

John Brown Day 2012 is free and open to the public and it is held outdoors. A brief reception will follow in the lower barn at the site. Donations will be appreciated.

For more information, contact Martha Swan, Executive Director of John Brown Lives! at 518-962-4758 or mswan@capital.net.

Visit the John Brown Lives! Friends of Freedom on Facebook.

Peterboro Celebrates Black Heritage

As Black History month commences, Peterboro, NY (in Madison County) is finalizing plans for 2012 programs that explore and explain the 19th Century history of African-Americans in the hamlet and its significance to the history of our nation.

On January 31st, the anniversary date of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery, the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum Traveling Abolition Museum exhibit was transported from Case Library at Colgate University to Memorial Library at SUNY Cortland for Black History Month.

The exhibit had been installed at Colgate for Martin Luther King Jr. commemorations at the college. Milton C. Sernett Ph.D. professor emeritus Syracuse University developed the text and visuals for the traveling museum that cover the history of American Abolition from slavery in the Colonial era to the Civil War.

Dr. Sernett, a member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) in Peterboro, will also be presenting at SUNY Cortland on the Abolition Crusade in Upstate New York. Robert Djed Snead, a Jermain Wesley Loguen reenactor who performed at Loguen’s NAHOF induction in October 2011, will perform and present Loguen at SUNY Cortland. For the same month The History Center in Ithaca will be hosting the John Brown Lives! Timbuctoo exhibit during Black History Month. Timbuctoo explains Gerrit Smith’s plan to gift 3000 African-American men with 40 acres of land.

The 20th Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend June 9 and 10, 2012 will join in the nation’s commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Military battles were not waged on Peterboro soil, but Peterboro was the center of human rights activities that waged war against slavery, and those activities led to the ignition of the Civil War. Dr. Sernett will present The Terrible Swift Sword: Abolitionists and the Civil War. Also, Alice Keesey Mecoy, will return to NAHOF to share insights into her great, great, grandfather John Brown. NAHOF will exhibit a copy of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation gifted by the New York State library. Lincoln presented his draft of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet on September 22, 1862. The New York State Museum will open an exhibit on September 22, 2012 about the Proclamation which was briefly owned by Gerrit Smith of Peterboro.

Sunday, July 1 at 2 p.m. at the Smithfield Community Center in Peterboro Dr. David Anderson of the Akwaaba Program at Nazareth College will portray Frederick Douglass’ in the delivery of Douglass’ famous Fifth of July speech. Saturday, August 4 the third annual 21st C. Emancipation Day will be held in Peterboro. On Sunday, August 5 Lesley Still Gist will detail the famous Underground Railroad work of William Still and his reunion with his long lost brother Peter Gist who came to Peterboro to seek help from Gerrit Smith. Saturday, August 18 at 7 p.m. Hugh Humphreys will present on the great Cazenovia protest against the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.

The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum Commemorations October 20, 2012 at Colgate University include the unveiling of Jermain Wesley Loguen’s banner for the Hall of Fame, as well as that of Abby Kelley Foster and George Gavin Ritchie for their risk-laden pursuit of freedom for slaves. Loguen’s afternoon symposium will be presented by Robert Djed Snead, and Snead will also re-enact Loguen during the evening celebrations.

Heritage New York Underground Railroad Trail and National Park Service National Historic Landmark exhibits on the Underground Railroad, abolition, and African-Americans of Peterboro are open from 1 – 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays May – September at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.

For more information refer to www.sca-peterboro.org, www.AbolitionHoF.org or 315-366-8101 as the season progresses.

Photo: Robert Djed Snead portrays Syracuse Underground Railroad station conductor Jermain Wesley Loguen at Loguen’s October 2011 Induction to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro.

New Book on John Brown: Midnight Rising

In his new book Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the story of Adirondack abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.

Late on the night of October 16, 1859, Adirondack abolitionist John Brown led 18 well-armed men on a raid of the federal armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry and sparked a nationwide uprising against slavery. The principal goal of the raid was to free slaves, not attack and hold a Southern state. The plan was simple: capture about 100,000 muskets and rifles, ammunition, and other supplies from the lightly guarded federal facilities at Harpers Ferry, retire to the countryside and carry out nighttime raids to free Southern slaves. The raider’s believed the southern harvest fields would be filled with disgruntled and overworked slaves bringing in the crops, a perfect opportunity to turn them to revolt.

The raid might have succeeded, had Brown not made a serious error in allowing an eastbound Baltimore & Ohio train the raiders had captured to proceed. The conductor alerted the main B & O office that abolitionists were attempting to free the area’s slaves. The word was immediately taken to B & O president John W. Garrett, who notified US President James Buchanan, Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, and Major General George H. Stewart of the Maryland Volunteers that a slave insurrection was underway in Harpers Ferry. The worst fear of the southern slaveholders seemed to be at hand.

By about noon Brown’s last chance to escape into the countryside came and went – he was in command of the bridges, and held about 35 prisoners. Armed locals arrived and organized a makeshift attack with their own hunting guns. Then two militia companies arrived from nearby Charles Town – together they stormed the bridges and drove the half dozen or so of Brown’s men guarding them back.

Five raiders were captured alive. Seven initially escaped and five of them made it to ultimate freedom in the north- four later served in the Civil War. Ten men were killed. All but two were buried in a common grave on the Shenandoah River, across from Harpers Ferry. The lest resting place of Jeremiah Anderson remains unknown. Watson Brown’s body was given to Winchester Medical College where it remained until Union troops recovered it during the Civil War and burned the school in reprisal.

Brown was charged with murder, conspiring with slaves to rebel, and treason against Virginia (West Virginia was not yet a state) and after a week-long trial was sentenced to death in early November. He was hanged on December 2nd (John Wilkes Booth sneaked in to watch) and his body was afterward carried to North Elba in Essex County to “moulder in his grave.”

Horwitz is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. He also wrote Confederates in the Attic, the outstanding look at the Civil War’s continued legacy in the South. Midnight Rising follows John Brown’s plot from its very inception to the savage battle, and then to its aftermath as it galvanizes the North and pushes the South closer to secession.

New York History founder John Warren wrote about the raid in a series of posts on in 2009.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

John Brown Lives! Concert Promotes Cultural Exchange

On Wednesday, July 20, 2011, John Brown Lives! (JBL!) is presenting “desert blues” musician, Bombino, live and in concert, at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. performance. Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a young Tuareg singer from Niger, Africa, on his first North American tour. He has received advance praise as a “guitar wizard” likened to Jimi Hendrix (KCRW), who plays “some of the most sublime guitar licks you’ll hear in 2011” (NPR).

The concert is an outgrowth of JBL!’s Dreaming of Timbuctoo Exhibition detailing a black settlement effort in the Adirondacks in the mid-1800s. It is also inaugurates the Timbuktu Sahara * Timbuctoo Adirondack Project, a cultural exchange initiative John Brown Lives! is developing to link schoolchildren and communities in the Adirondacks with a Tuareg village on the outskirts of Timbuktu, Mali. A share of proceeds from this concert will benefit the Scarab School in the desert village of Tinghassane.

The Tuareg, often called the “Blue Men of the Desert” by outsiders, are a nomadic people descended from the Berbers of North Africa. In his short life, Bombino, and many Tuareg, have endured drought, rebellion, tyranny, and exile. Fusing traditional rhythms of nomadic peoples of the Sahara and the Sahel with the drive of rock and roll and songs about peace, Bombino plays an influential role today in educating the Tuareg about the importance of the fragile democracy in Niger while maintaining their rich cultural heritage.

John Brown Lives! (JBL) is a freedom education project founded in 1999 to promote social justice through the exploration of issues, social movements and events, rooted mainly in Adirondack history, and their connection to today’s struggles for human rights.

Individual tickets are $18 in advance or $20 at the door. Children under 12 are admitted for $5. Sponsor tickets are also available at $160 for a book of 10 tickets. Tickets are available at the LPCA Box Office 518-523-2512. For sponsor tickets, please call 518-962-4758 or 518-576-9755.

For more general information, contact John Brown Lives! at mswan@capital.net or 518-962-4758. To learn more about Bombino and the Tuareg, check out these links (1, 2).

Climate Justice The Focus of John Brown Day

Climate Justice will be the focus of this year’s annual John Brown Day on Saturday, May 7, 2011. A tradition dating back to the 1930s, John Brown Day is held each year at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid, to honor one of the nation’s most influential abolitionists on the anniversary of his birth in 1800.

Dedicating his life to eradicating slavery, Brown eventually risked all attacking the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in 1859. Captured by troops led by Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart, Brown’s trial and execution are considered by many historians as a spark that help ignite the Civil War 150 years ago.

Climate Justice is a growing global movement that recognizes that poor and disenfranchised peoples around the world bear the least responsibility for climate change but face a disproportionate burden from its attendant effects, such as compromised health, economic hardship from rising energy costs, and displacement, destruction of property, and death due to extreme natural disasters. Here in the United States, the global campaign for Climate Justice is deeply linked to the Environmental Justice Movement, which is entering its third decade of militant opposition to environmental racism.

John Brown Day keynote speaker and Environmental Justice leader Cecil Corbin-Mark will describe the evolution of the Climate Justice Movement and give voice to the rights and concerns of the people who are usually the first and often the hardest hit by the impacts of global warming.

Corbin-Mark is Deputy Director of the Harlem-based organization, WE-ACT for Environmental Justice. In addition to his work in New York, Corbin-Mark has been active in United Nations and alternative global climate conversations from Copenhagen to Cochabamba to Cancun.
“Like slavery in antebellum America, climate change is one of the most important moral issues of our time,” said Martha Swan, director of the freedom education project John Brown Lives! which organizes the yearly event.

“Brown surely would have recognized that it is the world’s poor who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change, so it is fitting that Climate Justice will be the focus of John Brown Day 2011. In this Sesquicentennial Year marking the start of the Civil War, we are honored that Cecil will be with us at this critical time.”

Other speakers at the annual event include David Goodman, brother of civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, murdered by the Ku Klux Klan during Mississippi Freedom Summer in
1964, Alice Kesey Mecoy, great-great-great granddaughter of John and Mary Brown, and Brother Yusef Burges. A trustee of the Children & Nature Network and an outdoor educator, Burgess will speak about the power of nature to transform youth. A frequent paddler on Adirondack waterways and former outreach and diversity coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Burgess works to connect Albany-area youth with the natural beauty and environmental issues of the Adirondacks.

John Brown Day 2011 is possible with the cooperation of the John Brown Farm State Historic Site. The event is free and open to the public, and will be held outdoors under a tent.
For more information, contact Martha Swan, Director of John Brown Lives!, at 518-962-4758 or johnbrownlives@westelcom.com.

Wife of Abolitionist John Brown Subject of Performance

Author-historian Sandra Weber and musician David Hodges will present a dramatic performance of the life of Mary Day Brown, wife of radical abolitionist John Brown.

The Adirondack Museum‘-s Cabin Fever Sunday series will return to Saranac Lake, New York on February 27, 2011. “Times of Trouble” with Weber and Hodges will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers. The time will be 2:00 p.m. The presentation will offered at no charge to museum members, residents of Saranac Village, and children of elementary school age or younger. The fee for non-members is $5.00.

Dressed in period costume, Weber and Hodges will weave narrative and song to share the little known life of Mary Brown. The poignant piece illustrates the significant role this plain woman played as wife of the radical abolitionist John Brown.

The program will present Mary’s early life and marriage as well as later tragedies involving bankruptcy, accidents, and death. The presentation closes with Mrs. Brown’s most difficult “times of trouble” in the aftermath of the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Sandra Weber has spent ten years researching the life of Mary Day Brown.

Weber is an author, storyteller, and independent scholar with special interest in the Adirondacks, Mary and John Brown, as well as women’s history. Her publishing credits include eight books and numerous articles in periodicals such as Civil War Times, Adirondack Life, Pennsylvania Magazine, and Highlights for Children.

In 2004 and 2005, Sandra Weber toured with folksinger Peggy Lynn performing stories from their book, Breaking Trail: Remarkable Women of the Adirondacks.

David Hodges has played guitar and bass for more than twenty years. He has performed with bands throughout New York, Texas and Pennsylvania and recorded CDs with “Mad Factory” and “Evil Twin.” Hodges currently plays with “Mr. Freeze,” a blues-rock band, and accompanies Sandra Weber in folk music performances.

Anniversary of John Browns Execution

151 years ago this week, John Brown was executed and his body was returned to the Adirondacks. Had Brown escaped from Harpers Ferry rather than been captured he might well today be just a footnote, one of the tens of thousands that struggled to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War.

It’s often said that just one thing secured Brown’s place in the hearts of millions of Americans that came after him – his execution and martyrdom. There is another equally important reason Americans will celebrate the life of John Brown this week however – he was right slavery would end at a heavy price.

Last year, I wrote a series of posts following the last days of John Brown’s fight to end slavery. You can read the entire series here (start at the bottom).