John Brown Symposium, Reenactment, Memorial

A tremendous slate of events has been planned for the Lake Placid-North Eba area to commemorate the life and death of abolitionist John Brown. Dubbed the &#8220John Brown Coming Home Commemoration,&#8221 held from November 4th to December 8th, 2009, the series of events will examine John Brown’s impact on the country leading up to the civil war, the use of violence, and on the ongoing efforts to end slavery and human rights abuses in this country and worldwide- and reenactments of his cortege home, body lying in state at the Essex County Courthouse, burial at his farm, and the memorial service.

Among those taking part in the events will be Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves, local author Russell Banks, activist and co-founder of the Weather Underground Bernardine Dohrn, executive director of CORE George Holmes, John Brown descendant Alice Keesey Mecoy, Maria Suarez, who was sold into slavery at the age of 16, Margaret Washington, Sojourner Truth’s America and Louis DeCaro, Jr., author of John Brown: The Cost of Freedom. A full list of events follows.


Actor actor Fred Morsell will launch the John Brown Coming Home’s Artist Residencies-in-Schools program with a dramatic portrayal of Frederick Douglass in one-man performance based on Douglass’ writings. Called “Frederick Douglass: A Soul’s Evolution,” the piece will include excerpts from Douglass’ homage to John Brown that Douglass delivered in Harpers Ferry in 1881 in which Douglass declared that Brown “began the war that ended American slavery, and made this a free Republic.” This event is limited to the participating schools, currently Crown Point, Keene, Keesville, Lake Placid Central, Moriah, Newcomb and Westport.

Students, representing age groups and disciplines, working with professional artists representing different mediums—poetry, dance, songwriting, drama and drumming&#8211will create personal works in response to their examination of the life, the times and the legacy of abolitionist John Brown at a culminating event at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on December 4, and at their respective schools thereafter.


7:30 PM, Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Algonquin Drive, Lake Placid, NY
Film: John Brown’s Holy War

Produced for PBS’s American Experience, drawing upon interviews with historians and writers, including novelist Russell Banks, and stunning reenactments, Robert Kenner’s film traces Brown’s obsessive battle against human bondage that in the end sparked the Civil War. A post screening discussion will be held. This event is presented by the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

3:00 PM, 511 Gallery, 2461 Main Street, Lake Placid

Have You Seen that Vigilante Man?, a lecture by Amy Godine and presented by the Lake Placid Institute for the Arts & Humanities

Night Riders, lynch mobs and vigilante justice… The darkest side of American mob justice was not confined to the Deep South and the Far West. The history of the Adirondacks is ablaze with incidents of so-called “frontier justice,” from mob attacks on radical abolitionists to “townie” raids on striking immigrant labors to anti-Catholic gatherings of the Klu Klux Klan. Amy Godine’s anecdotal history of Adirondack vigilantism explores a regional legacy with deep, enduring, toxic roots.

Curator of the traveling exhibition, &#8220Dreaming of Timbuctoo,&#8221 independent scholar Amy Godine is a contributor to the regional anthologies, The Second Adirondack Reader and Rooted in Rock, and a regular writer on ethnic history for Adirondack Life.

5:00 p.m., Lake Placid Center for the Arts, 17 Algonquin Drive, Lake Placid

Culminating event of the John Brown Coming Homes Artist Residencies-in-Schools program (see November 17)

7:30 PM (reception to follow)

Slavery: An exploration through contemporary film, lead by JW Wiley, Director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion for State University of New York-Plattsburgh. Narrative and documentary filmmakers have captured contemporary situations that are equal too the personal experiences that motivated John Brown. This presentation will use film clips from their work to explore the broad context of racism in the era of Brown. Wiley writes, “situating the reality of his life in the midst of the racist times he lived will provide opportunities for us to speculate and examine some of his potential motivations for the monumentally historic actions he took.” This event is presented by the Adirondack Film Society

High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY

Symposium on the Life and Legacy of John Brown

The purpose of the symposium is to investigate the whole person, John Brown, including the experiences and faith that shaped him- the pre Civil War reality for African-Americans, both in slavery and seeking to end slavery- the post Civil War era for African-Americans- Brown’s ongoing influence on those who have tried to foster social change- and to examine and understand slavery today and create discussion around the question, Is violence ever justified?


9:00 AM Opening Keynote: Margaret Washington: The African American Experience. Professor Margaret Washington, Cornell authority on the black experience. Recent work: Sojourner Truth’s America. Articles include, From Motives of Delicacy: Sexuality and Morality in the Narratives of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs, Journal of African American History, and Rachel Weeping for Her Children.

10:00 AM Presentation: Rev, Dr. Louis DeCaro, Jr.: John Brown, A Man of His Times, Assistant Professor of History at Theology at Alliance Theological Seminary, works include the collection of essays John Brown Remembered, and books John Brown&#8211the Cost of Freedom, and Fire from the Midst of You: A Religious Life of John Brown.


11:15 AM

Presentation: Slavery in our Time

Kevin Bales. Author: Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (nominated for Pulitzer), Understanding Global Slavery and Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves. Expert on modern slavery, president of Free the Slaves, Board of Directors of the International Cocoa Initiative.

Maria Suarez, a social worker and advocate to end human trafficking, who was sold into and lived in slavery in the United States for 5 years beginning when she was sixteen years old and freed only when a neighbor killed her captor, but then wrongly imprisoned for that death and eventually pardoned.

Lunch on own


1:30 PM Panel: John Brown’s Legacy

Moderator: Russell Banks- Novels include: Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter, both also critically-acclaimed movies- The Book of Jamaica Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, a historical novel about abolitionist John Brown, Cloudsplitter, and The Darling. President of Cities of Refuge North America and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Bank has taught at many colleges and universities including Princeton.


Kevin Bales. Author: Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (nominated for Pulitzer), Understanding Global Slavery and Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves. Expert on modern slavery, president of Free the Slaves, Board of Directors of the International Cocoa Initiative.

Bernardine Dohrn, activist, academic and child advocate, is Director of the Children and Family Justice Center and Clinical Associate Professor of the Northwestern University School Law, Bluhm Legal Clinic. Dohrn was a national leader of SDS (Students f
or a Democratic Society) and the Weather Underground, and was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List for over a decade.

George Holmes, executive director, chief operating officer, Congress of Racial Equality, Coordinated American delegation dispatched to observe and monitor free elections in Nigeria in 1996-97. Organized emergency response team to assist in the World Trade Center collapse.

Alice Keesey Mecoy. Great-great-great granddaughter of abolitionist John Brown has researched her family history for 30 years, especially the women in John Brown’s life, dedicated to war against slavery. Presented her findings to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Saratoga Historical Museum.

Margaret Washington. Cornell professor Margaret Washington is an authority on the black experience. Recent work: Sojourner Truth’s America. Articles include, From Motives of Delicacy: Sexuality and Morality in the Narratives of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Jacobs, Journal of African American History, and Rachel Weeping for Her Children

J.W. Wiley, Director for the Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion at State University of New York &#8211 Plattsburgh and a lecturer in philosophy and minority studies. Works to implement strategies and policies for inclusion and diversity.

4:00 PM

His Spirit Lives On

John Brown’s Farm State Historic Site

Walk to the John Brown’s Grave along Old John Brown Road

Laying of Wreath at John Brown’s Grave

lead by Roy Innis, National President of C.O.R.E.

7:30 PM

Site: Adirondack Community Church

Tribute to Russell Banks

Presentation of the first Adirondack Arts and Humanities Award to author Russell Banks- author William Kennedy master of ceremonies followed by a gospel concert


10 AM

Re-enactment of the bringing of John Brown’s Cortege across Lake Champlain from Button Bay Park, VT to Westport, NY by the Weatherwax, a replica of a 19th century sail ferry similar to the one used to bring Mary Brown, leading abolitionists and the body of her husband.

12:00 Noon

Westport Heritage Center, Westport, NY

Lecture by Don Papson

John Brown sacrificed his life at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859 attempting to establish an Underground Railroad Passageway through the Appalachian Mountains. For 150 years historians have wondered whether or not Brown sheltered runaway slaves at his North Elba farm in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Some local 20th century historians concluded that there was no Underground Railroad activity at North Elba and that all of Brown’s black neighbors were “ordinary” “free” “New Yorkers.” Social historian Don Papson has discovered documents suggesting that the truth may have been an entirely different story.

Don Papson is the founding President of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association and Curator for the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, which will open at Ausable Chasm in 2010.

Lecture followed by a 19th century luncheon. John Brown’s casket will have been brought up to the church prior to the presentation.

Event presented by the Adirondack History Center Museum (tickets required)

2:00 PM

John Brown’s casket brought to Old Stone Church in Elizabethtown

3:00 PM

Old Stone Church, Elizabethtown

Dramatic readings from Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks- poetry readings- musical presentations

Adirondack History Center Museum Open, appropriate exhibits on display

4:30 PM

Procession of John Brown’s coffin from Old Stone Church to Essex County Courthouse. Event presented by the Adirondack History Center Museum

5:00 PM

Essex County Courthouse

Coffin laid in state, honor guard, candles, public may bear witness through the evening

5:30 PM

Deer’s Head Inn

Reception presented by the Adirondack History Center Museum (tickets required)


3:00 PM

John Brown Farm State Historic Site, Lake Placid, NY

Returning Home

John Brown’s coffin is brought to the Farm. The procession will begin on Rte 73, continue up Old Military Road and along John Brown Road and end at the Farm with the placement of the coffin the in Farmhouse for the evening.

4:00 PM

Coffin arrives at Farm

6:00 PM

John Brown Farm State Historic Site

The Sword of the Spirit, by Magpie

Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino, better known as Magpie, one of the premier folk music duos in America today, will present their stirring collection of songs that reflect on the life, death and turbulent times of abolitionist John Brown, his family and followers. Sword of the Spirit, traces the story of one of the most controversial figures in our nation’s history whose rage against slavery led him to his daring and violent raid on the US Army Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 that became one of the sparks that helped ignite the war between the states. Making history come alive is one thing. To do it through words and music takes a special talent. Magpie handles the task beautifully with upbeat themes, delightful harmonies and thrilling anthems. Here is music with depth, relevance and topnotch songwriting.


11:00 AM

Memorial Service begins at John Brown’s Farm

Re-enactors for: Wendell Phillips, co-leader on American Anti-Slavery Society

Reverend Joshua Young, L Bigelow, Mary Brown

11:45 PM

Service ends with ringing of the bells in churches throughout the region.

Post event reception at Uihlein Farm (invitation required)

Kristin Strack
Reservations Manager
518-523-2445 ext109
Email: [email protected] JOHN BROWN 150th COMMEMORATION

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