"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Letter/Announcement by Jean Libby, Historian & Document Expert:

New Publication to be Presented at the Upcoming Niagara Movement Commemoration at Harper's Ferry

Dear friends and scholars of John and Mary Brown,

John Brown's Family in California, the newest publication by Allies for Freedom will be first presented at the Niagara Movement Commemoration in Harpers Ferry on August 18-20, 2006. The booksigning will take place on August 20, following the walk to John Brown's Fort at dawn in the footsteps of W.E.B. Du Bois and the civil rights pioneers and the services and concert in the Free Will Baptist Church on the Storer College campus.

The book is in 8 ½ by 11 magazine format, 40 pages, and contains essays by April Halberstadt, director of the Saratoga (California) Historical Museum; Eric Ledell Smith, historian at the State Museum of Pennsylvania; John M. Lawlor history professor at Reading Area Community College; Louis M. DeCaro, Jr., biographer of John Brown and editor of a new life and letters to be published in October (International Publishers).

My own essays and photos in the book date back to a cross-country train trip in 1976 and photographing direct descendants of John and Mary Brown (Beatrice Keesey, Alice Keesey, age sixteen, and Jim Keesey, age twelve] in their California home in December of that same year. The Keesey family's direct forbear was Annie Brown Adams, the same who spent her sixteenth summer, 1859, at the Kennedy Farm in Maryland. The resemblance of Annie and Alice at the same age is breath-taking. Today, Alice Keesey McCoy is an active John Brown scholar interested in the family relationships and historical significance.

This new publication is revised from a course reader that I made for a California History Center one-unit Travel Class (yes, you do have to write a report if you want academic credit). It has a driving tour of sites associated with the family of John Brown, which includes the entire civic center of the City of Saratoga, California, located on the orchard owned by Ellen Brown and her husband Tom Fablinger, adjacent to the one owned by Sarah Brown.

The heart of this new publication is the search for family and identity, whether in the archives of the United States or in the genealogy of the descendants, even in the genealogy of some slaveholders when that provided explanation for African American family's forced migration. In this case the remarkable providence is that an original (1999) Allies for Freedom organizer, Judith Grevious Cephas, in looking for documentation of rupture of the Grevious family from Virginia to Kentucky, found that the slaveholder was the Taliaferro family of Gloucester County. William Booth "Toliver" was put in charge of the military rule at Charlestown during the imprisonment and execution of John Brown. He was selected by Governor Wise because of experience with slave insurrection in 1836, which resulted in the expulsion of free African Americans from Gloucester County. This research chain was initiated through a reference in the work of the late Dr. Herbert Aptheker, in American Negro Slave Revolts. The enginehouse for research is now the Internet.

Lori Deal, a descendant of Lucy Higgins (a progressive woman in Santa Clara, California, who was a friend of Sarah Brown), began searching for answers about her family, who had inherited a letter from John Brown to his wife, Mary, written in 1854. As Lori searched for a location to donate this letter to best serve the continuation of the ideas of the abolitionist women of Santa Clara County (voting rights and equality for all, including the new racial minority in California, Asians) she decided upon The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

One reason for her decision was the online cataloging of their collection on the entire university library system. Further, she extracted a promise from the curator that Bancroft would cooperate with smaller local institutions such as the Saratoga Historical Foundation to provide information about their collections.

The Bancroft Library could look at Kansas, where the letters of Mary Brown and other Brown family members at the Kansas State Historical Society are online in cooperation with Territorial Kansas, a smaller historical entity with much expertise. We would like to encourage a similar process in California.

For some years several of the authors of John Brown's Family in California have been working together to create a documents book about John Brown. Some of this begins anew, particularly the carpetbag documents and analysis by Pennsylvanians Eric Ledell Smith and John M. Lawlor. Meanwhile, the person who took the carpetbag from the Kennedy Farm, CLIFTON W. TAYLUERE, a Maryland Confederate, has been lurking in the margins of earlier histories, "sometimes misidentified [Villard] but mostly ignored,” waiting for his proper credit. It was he who donated "Sambos Mistakes" to the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore in 1883, with a long letter describing the events of October 18. Scott Sherlock, a volunteer at MHS wanting to publicize its treasures, has made a verbatim transcription of "Sambos Mistakes" from John Brown's handwriting. This was no mean feat, because the copy was in reverse, John Brown having kept a carbon-type copy of the essay written for the African American newspaper The Ram's Horn in 1848. Scott did it with a laptop computer and a hand-held mirror from the handbag of an MHS archivist.

Eric Ledell Smith has put some preliminary information about Clifton Tayluere in the carpetbag documents article, but a couple of Yankees can't do him justice. He is a worthy subject for his own people--Scott Sherlock and Dennis Frye come to mind--and there is enough in the MHS to make another Civil War science fiction, Bill Forstchen. Ask Scott to describe the numbers that Brown has written completely over a large page. Numerology? Astronomy? Whatever it is, that is another of the documents that Clifton Tayluere kept as souvenirs (with permission from Jeb Stuart and Andrew Hunter) of the carpetbag that he took for his journal, the Baltimore Clipper.

Before rushing off to find the microfilm of the Clipper for the time of John Brown's raid, be advised that there isn't one. The archivists and historians in their wisdom microfilmed the Baltimore Sun of October, 1859 but not the Clipper. I had the Clipper scanned personally at the Maryland State Archives in 2001, but it needs a better budget than that of a retired part-time teacher to be sure it was done completely, and can be made public. I have made CD copies of the scans for the State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Maryland Historical Society, and of course my first resource, the Western Maryland Room of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown. Eric Ledell Smith has correlated the carpetbag documents with these newspapers as well as the Dreer Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the published records of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Mason Committee. John M. Lawlor has correlated them with the records at the National Archives and Records Administration, finding a different group of originals, all taken from Brown at his capture on October 18.

Please enjoy John Brown's Family in California in the spirit of inquiry and identity that engendered it. It is available for ordering from Allies for Freedom on our new (shared) e-commerce site which can be approached via http://www.alliesforfreedom.org/ or directly at http://store.atozproductions.com/ Delivery will begin following the booksigning in Harpers Ferry on August 20. ISBN 0-9773638-2-1.

My best regards -- see many of you next week!
Jean

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