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"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Congress of Racial Equality Observes the 150th Anniversary of the Sacrifice of Abolitionist John Brown New York, NY Friday, November 20, 2009

Cornell scholar Margaret Washington, author of Sojourner Truth's America, will give the keynote address Saturday, December 5, 2009 at a symposium to explore the legacy and abolitionist John Brown held in Lake Placid, NY where he and most of the Harper's Ferry raiders are buried.

"A lot of attention has been given this year to the actions of John Brown and the abolitionists who supported him," said Naj Wikoff, coordinator of the 150th Commemoration of John Brown, "and not enough to the critical role that Black Americans played in setting the stage and forcing the issue of slavery on the national conscious. It was Free Blacks who took up Gerrit Smith's offer to leave the urban environment to the Adirondack wilderness in an attempt to create a new beginning; without them John Brown would never have moved here where his raid was planned."

"Brown understood and celebrated the courage of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, who risked their lives countless times to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom, and valued his friendship with Frederick Douglass. They, and the many who risked all to seek freedom through walking into the unknown with Federal laws requiring their return to slavery, created the climate that got Lincoln elected and set our nation on the path to war. We are starting our symposium with Professor Washington to underscore the importance of the contribution of Blacks in those treacherous days"

The symposium, "The Life and Legacy of John Brown," will be like no other held this year. Where many talk about slavery, the Lake Placid organizers are bringing Maria Suarez, who was sold into slavery -– in the United States -- as a 16 year-old, and Kevin Bales, president of Free the Slaves, often goes underground into the slave trade that subjugates over 27 million worldwide, 50,000 in the US. Their goal is to put a face to slavery.

By the same token they have drawn people like Roy Innis, the national chairman of CORE, to lead a memorial service at John Brown's gravesite, people who have put their lives on the lines for the fight for civil rights. Author Russell Banks, whose novel Cloudsplitter launched a reappraisal of Brown, will moderate a panel that will examine our national relationship with violence and explore the question when, and if ever, is it an appropriate tool for social change with people like Bernardine Dorhn, a former member of the Weather Underground who was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List for ten years.

SUNY Plattsburg professor and director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion, will use excerpts from features and documentaries, to examine the broad context of racism in the time of Brown, while Brown's biographer Louis DeCaro, Jr., himself an ordained minister, will examine the role of faith in Brown's actions. In addition, activities include a full range of reenactments beginning with the arrival of John Brown's cortege at Westport, NY on Sunday December 6, its coming into Elizabethtown for the laying of John Brown's body in state at the Essex County Courthouse as it was 150 years ago, and its arrival at his farm by horse drawn wagon.

John Brown Coming Home is being organized by Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau, John Brown Lives! and the New York State Archives Partnership Trust in cooperation with local history and cultural organizations. John Brown Coming Home is sponsored by the Visitor's Bureau, the Lake Placid Education Foundation and the New York Council of the Humanities* along with private contributions of cash and in-kind services. North Country Public Radio is the official Media sponsor.

For Interviews with presenters:

New York State Archives Partnership Trust
Robert Bullock, Executive Director

John Brown Lives!
Martha Swan, Director

Naj Wikoff
John Brown Coming Home
518-523-2445 ext. 108

Brian McLaughlin
Congress of Racial Equality -- CORE
New York, NY

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