Abolitionist History Season Getting An Early Start

John Brown DayThe Abolitionist History season is starting early this year.

First, the North Star Underground Railroad Museum at Ausabale Chasm opens Saturday, May 4, nearly a month earlier than usual, and sponsors its first tour of Underground Railroad sites in local towns. With the weather as warm as it is, and demand growing in each of the museum’s first two years, the early opening made sense.

Second, just one week later, John Brown Lives! celebrates John Brown Day on May 11 with a special appearance by activist and one-time Presidental candidate Dick Gregory. He’ll be the keynote speaker at 2 p.m. at the John Brown State Historic Site, followed by Kate C. Larson, biographer of the legendary underground conductor Harriet Tubman. Read more

Black History Progams at Adirondack Prison

In the 1850's, black families came to the Adirondacks to farm.The Adirondack Correctional Facility at Raybrook is hosting a series of special Black History Month programs for inmates that focus on 19th Century stories of African-Americans in the North Country.

&#8220Dreaming of Timbuctoo,&#8221 the display put together by John Brown Lives! back in 2001, reveals the story of families that came to the Lake Placid area in the years before the Civil War, to establish farms and gain voting rights. Read more

Emancipation Weekend in the Adirondacks

January 1, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and students, educators, and general public across the North Country will have the opportunity to support a New Proclamation of Freedom for the 21st century.

On Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December, modern-day abolitionists will gather with students, teachers and the general public concerned about human freedom and human trafficking at various venues in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Activities will include an art exhibition, a screening of the popular Civil War film Glory, workshops, lectures, and a closing reception following historian David Blight’s keynote address on Saturday night. (Full schedule follows.) Read more

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 &#8211 his execution and martyrdom. But there is another more important reason to celebrate the life of John Brown &#8211 his courage in standing against unjust state and federal laws, the press, and popular culture in the cause of basic human rights. Read more

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 [email protected]. Sheridan is available at 518-891-2915, ext. 1271 or [email protected].

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 [email protected].

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

Lies My Teacher Told Me Author Event Friday

James W. Loewen, award-winning author of the popular Lies My Teacher Told Me titles, will visit the North Country tomorrow Friday, October 14 from 10-12 pm at SUNY Plattsburg.

The freedom education project John Brown Lives! and SUNY Plattsburgh’s Honors College, Department of Anthropology, Department of Education, Health & Human Services and the Center for Diversity, Pluralism & Inclusion are teaming up to sponsor Loewen.

Loewen’s address, “Lies My Teacher Told Me About the Civil War—And How They Still Affect Civil Rights Today”, is open to the general public. Known for his engaging style and gripping retelling of U.S. history, Loewen has inspired K-16 teachers across the country to get students to challenge, rather than memorize, their textbooks. His best-selling title, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, resulted from two years studying U.S. history textbooks and it has sold more than 1,250,000 copies.

Currently residing in Washington, D.C., Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont and previously at the predominantly black Tougaloo College in Mississippi. He has been an expert witness in more than 50 civil rights, voting rights, and employment cases and is also Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Visiting Professor of Sociology at Catholic University in Washington, DC, and Visiting Professor of African-American Studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign.

Dreaming of Timbuctoo Showing in Essex County

The “Dreaming of Timbuctoo” Exhibition will be on view at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall in the Champlain Valley from July 3-9. The Grange is located on Route 22, five miles south of the village of Essex, NY.

When it premiered at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake in 2001, “Dreaming of Timbuctoo” revealed the little-known antebellum history involving black homesteaders granted land in the Adirondacks in the mid-1840s—a step toward winning the vote for free black New Yorkers.

Through this abolitionist “scheme of justice and benevolence”, 3,000 African American men from nearly every county in the state each received 40 acres of land. John and Mary Brown moved to the Adirondacks in 1848 to be a friend and neighbor to those who settled their land. One of the loosely knit communities came to be called “Timbuctoo”.

Through letters, documents, archival photographs, and curator Amy Godine’s illuminating text, the exhibition explores the backdrop and motivations of some of the country’s most illustrious anti-slavery leaders involved, including philanthropist Gerrit Smith, the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet of Troy, Frederick Douglass, Syracuse’s Rev. Jermaine Loguen, and Dr. James McCune Smith of New York City.

As the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the Whallonsburg Grange Hall and John Brown Lives! host the exhibition and several educational and cultural events that examine the political war on slavery, discuss its place in North Country history, and its relationship to civil rights issues.

The exhibition opens on Sunday 3 July at 3:00 p.m. and a reception and talk by the curator will follow at 6:00 p.m. Suggested donation is $7. Regular hours from Monday-Saturday, July 4-9, are from 12 noon to 6:00 p.m. and admission is free.

Other upcoming programs at the Grange include:

Wednesday, July 7 at 7:00 p.m.: The Struggle for the Right to Vote, Past and Present, with historians and civil rights activists Dr. Laura Free, criminologist Alice Green, and Paul Murray, Mississippi volunteer in the 1960s. Excerpts from the new film marking the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders will be shown. Admission $5- students free.

Thursday, July 7 at 7:00 p.m. Transgressing the Blue Line: Toward an Inclusive Adirondack Narrative with environmental philosopher Marianne Patinelli-Dubay. Admission $5- students free.

Saturday, July 9 at 8:00 p.m. Magpie in Concert, featuring the gorgeous harmonies, brilliant musicianship, and inspiring songs of the folk duo, Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino. Admission $7- children under 12 admitted for $3.

Related programs at Heaven Hill Farm will involved a trek into the archaeological dig underway at one of the “Timbuctoo” homesteads under the direction of Dr. Hadley Kruczek-Aaron, SUNY-Potsdam Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Timbuctoo Archaeology Project. The dig is near the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in North Elba. Reservations for both Heaven Hill events are necessary and can be made at [email protected] or 518-962-4758.

Thursday, July 7, from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., educators, artists, parents and community members engage in a roundtable conversation to shape a Timbuctoo Adirondacks-Timbuktu Sahara friendship connection. A representative from a Tuoareg community school on outskirts of the Malian city of Tiimbuktu will be present.

Sunday, July 10, from 3:00-6:00 p.m., a visit to the dig site of the Timbuctoo Archaeology Project and reception afterward. $20 per person would be appreciated.

“Dreaming of Timbuctoo” is a joint project of John Brown Lives! and the Essex County Historical Society. Funding from the New York Council for the Humanities and the New York Council on the Arts were principal funders of the exhibition. The Arts Council of the Northern Adirondacks is providing support for the concert with Magpie.

For more information, go to www.thegrangehall.org or contact Martha Swan, Director of John Brown Lives! at [email protected] or 518-962-4758, or Mary-Nell Bockman at Whallonsburg Grange Hall, [email protected] or 518-570-2382.

Photo: Black Farmers in North Elba (Courtesy Adirondack Museum).

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 [email protected].

John Brown Lives! Exposing Slavery in Our Chocolate

On Monday, 14 February, John Brown Lives!’ Dreaming of Timbuctoo Exhibition will be on display in The Well of the Legislative Office Building in Albany. The exhibition will be unveiled at 11:00 a.m. with Valentine’s Day Fair Trade chocolates and guest speakers, including Assemblyman Steven Englebright, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, and Senators Kevin Parker and Betty Little.

While the exhibition brings to light a long-forgotten chapter of New York State freedom history, speakers will also draw connections across continents from the Sahara to the Adirondacks, discuss the importance public funding for state historic sites, and provide an update on the current campaign to end child/slave labor and trafficking in the chocolate industry.

Fifteen years before the Civil War, leading black and white abolitionists in New York State rolled out an ambitious voting rights strategy to break the juggernaut in Albany that kept Black New Yorkers disenfranchised. Part agrarian dream, it also resulted in radical reformer Gerrit Smith deeding 120,000 acres of Adirondack land to 3,000 free black men from all across the state. While few families moved to their plots, Smith’s &#8220scheme of justice and benevolence&#8221 is what attracted John Brown to move there with his family. The homestead is where Brown chose to be buried after his raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859 to strike a blow against slavery. Tens of thousands of visitors come to the John Brown State Historic Site outside of Lake Placid every year to visit the gravesite of Brown and several of his fellow Raiders.

Dreaming of Timbuctoo is the first serious and thorough treatment of the backstory behind John Brown’s attraction to the Adirondacks. The exhibition premiered at the Adirondack Museum in 2001 and then toured campuses, libraries, historical societies, and museums around the state, including the State Museum in Albany, and was seen by well over 100,000 people. With Assemblyman Englebright and Senators Kevin Parker and Betty Little as sponsors, the exhibition will be on display in The Well for the public to view through Thursday 17 February.

Invited speakers at the press event in The Well on Valentine’s Day, Monday 14 February, at 11:00 a.m. include:

– Assemblyman Steven Englebright and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward-
– Senators Kevin Parker and Betty Little-
– Martha Swan, Director, John Brown Lives!
– Brian O’Shaughnessy, Executive Director, New York Labor-Religion Coalition who will make the link to current work to end child/slave labor and trafficking in cocoa industry-
– Jane McNamara, Director of Grants & Special Programs, New York Council for the Humanities
– Dr. Hadley-Kruzcak-Aaron, SUNY Potsdam professor and archeologist who is conducting a dig on one of the Timbuctoo plots in Essex County-
– Andrew Stewart, a college freshman from Albany who was part of Hadley’s team on a dig in 2009-
– Brother Yusef Wasi, an Albany educator and mentor of Andrew and other teens involved in the dig-
– Ibrahim ag Mohamed, Director of Scarab School, Timbuktu, Mali (whose greetings from Mali will be read on his behalf)
– Amy Godine, exhibition curator, who will lead a walk-thru of the exhibition.

Fair Trade chocolate will be handed out and people will have the opportunity to send a Valentine’s Day post card asking the Hersheys Chocolate Company to certify that David West, CEO of Hersheys Company.

Dreaming of Timbuctoo is a joint project of the freedom education project John Brown Lives! and the Essex County Historical Society. Major funding for the exhibition and a slate of educational and cultural program was provided by the New York State Council for the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, private foundations, and numerous individual donors.

For more information: Martha Swan, Director, John Brown Lives!, 518-962-4758 or 518-582-2586