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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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Monday, November 23, 2009


John Brown Events in Philadelphia

Wednesday, December 2
Hamilton Auditorium, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Noon to 1 p.m., Free
In Memoriam: Horace Pippin's John Brown Going to His Hanging. This day marks the 150th anniversary of the hanging of John Brown, one of the most controversial and celebrated men of the nineteenth century, whose raid on Harpers Ferry and subsequent execution caused stirrings across the nation. Located at 118 N. Broad Street.

Wednesday, December 2
Charles Blockson Collection, Temple University,
2:00 - 4:00 p.m., Free
A Conversation on the Legacy of John Brown with Charles Blockson and Dr. Molefi Kete Asante.
Mr. Blockson will discuss his family's personal connection to John Brown and the Underground Railroad, as well as John Brown's relationship with the African American community more broadly. Dr. Asante will present "John Brown: An Authentic Hero of Liberty," wherein he will examine the reasons why most Americans have forgotten Brown's thoughts and deeds. Located in Sullivan Hall in the Berks Mall at Temple University.

Wednesday, December 2
Historical Society of Pennsylvania/Library Company of Philadelphia, 6 p.m., Free
"The Empty Coffin: John Brown and Philadelphia" - A Talk by Louis DeCaro, Jr.
After his death, John Brown's body traveled through Philadelphia. Worried about the possibility of riots in the streets, the mayor devised a plan in order to sneak Brown's body away safely. DeCaro's talk will allow us to learn this fascinating story and invite us to consider Brown's pivotal importance in the larger struggle for civil rights. Located at 1300 Locust Street.

Friday, December 4
Mitchell Auditorium, Bossone Building,
Drexel University, 6 p.m., Free
"John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights" - A Talk by David S. Reynolds
David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at Baruch College New York. Reynolds book, John Brown, Abolitionist, is the winner of the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award; winner of the Kansas State Book Award; finalist for the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship; listed among "The Outstanding Books of 2005" by the National Book Critics Circle; listed among "Top Picks" of "Notable Books of 2005" by the American Library Association; and noted as "the most widely reviewed book in America in major periodicals" for the period of April 19 - May 5, 2005 by Publishers' Lunch. The Bossone Building at Drexel University is located at Market Street between 31st and 32nd Streets.

Saturday, December 5
African American Museum of Philadelphia,
9:30 a.m., Free
John Brown for Educators and Students
Facilitated by Author David S. Reynolds
Join author David S. Reynolds to explore ways of bringing the John Brown story into the classroom. Located at 701 Arch Street.

Saturday, December 5
African American Museum of Philadelphia,
3:30 p.m., Free with admission
John Brown's Holy War - PBS Film
THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents John Brown's Holy Way, produced and directed by Robert Kenner (Influenza 1918) and written by Ken Chowder. Located at 701 Arch Street.
[this documentary is NOT recommended by this blogger; it should be viewed with great reservation and is unreliable as to presentation, fact, and interpretation--LD]

John Brown in Philadelphia, a Cell Phone Tour
Using your cell phone, explore the Philadelphia events, places and people that are part of the John Brown story and the struggle over slavery in the home of America's largest northern free black community before the Civil War. To be launched by November 29 on: www.civilwarphilly.net/johnbrown. and www.civilwarphilly.net/cellphone/index.html. Contact: V. Chapman Smith, 215.606.0101, v.chapman-smith@nara.gov.

John Brown Remembered in the Town Where Was Executed

CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA - Students at the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center are working on a project that will serve as the backdrop of a historic remembrance early next month. Ron Hartle, a carpentry instructor at the facility, said his students are building a scaffolding and coffin that will be used Dec. 2 as area residents commemorate the death of abolitionist John Brown.

The day will mark the 150th anniversary of Brown's hanging. His death came following a trial in Charles Town in 1869, in which he was found guilty of treason by the State of Virginia [the State of West Virginia was not yet created at the time of Brown's raid].

Brown and his followers had raided the town and government armory in Harpers Ferry in a move that was expected to become part of a larger slave liberation movement. During the raid, townspeople - including the local mayor - were killed, as were members of Brown's raiders. The October 1869 raid is now seen as key in the buildup to the Civil War, and numerous events have taken place in the area in remembrance of Brown's actions in recent months.

On Dec. 2, the remembrance will continue.

Hartle said his class, which consists of students ages 16 to 24 who hail from Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, is basing construction efforts on drawings made during the time period that show the gallows from which Brown was hanged.

Hartle said his students are undertaking the project in sections so that the scaffolding can be transported to the site of Brown's actual hanging in downtown Charles Town.

The scaffolding is slated to be completed by Thanksgiving, he said. The class plans to move the project to the location on Samuel Street where Brown was hanged early the following week, with the commemoration of his hanging slated to take place Dec. 2.

That day, members of the Jefferson County National Association for the Advancemnt of Colored People, along with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, will host an event to remember Brown's death.

The event is slated to feature a John Brown re-enactor and others who will retrace the footsteps that residents took on that historic day, said Jefferson County Commissioner Lyn Widmyer, a member of the local NAACP.

"There will be a John Brown re-enactor. He'll be brought out to the courthouse steps, the final verdict will be read, and then he'll be put in a horse-drawn carriage atop a coffin, just as John Brown was," Widmyer said.

Other re-enactors are set to follow Brown on horseback, she said, adding that residents and visitors will be able to follow along on the march as well.

Alice Keesey Mecoy, one of Brown's descendents, is scheduled to make brief remarks once the group reaches the site of the original hanging, Widmyer said. A wreath laying is planned, she said, adding that the gallows will be used as a backdrop.

Widmyer said the event is expected to draw several hundred people, depending on the day's weather.

"This is an opportunity to really experience the event," she said.


A Note from Greg Artzner:

Thought you might appreciate the first testimonials to come in after our performances of "Sword of the Spirit" for the Harpers Ferry's Sesquicentennial Commemoration of John Brown's Raid.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, Larry Lawrence is one of the real John Brown fans, being the founder and chairman of The John Brown Society [New York]. When we talked briefly after the play, it was a four-way conversation with him, Norman Thomas Marshall, a wonderful actor who portrays Brown in his own one-act play, "John Brown: Trumpet of Freedom," and Louis DeCaro Jr., biographer, author of "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown, one of the best books about Brown ever written. Larry said, "This is a rare occasion; a gathering of probably the four most radical John Brown people in the country!"

Evan Carton is the author of another of my favorite Brown biographies, Patriotic Treason. He raised his hand to comment on the play just after highly emotional comments made by John & Mary Brown's great-great-great-granddaughter, Alice Keesey Mecoy. He said some of the things that he wrote here. Very gratifying and moving for us.

affectionately yours,

“...let our motto still be action, action,–as we have but one life to live.” –John Brown

A very lovely and touching work. The highlighting of Mary Brown in this performance is extremely important. She is too often neglected in John Brown circles. The huge sacrifices of the entire circle of people around John Brown would not have been possible without the basic love of justice expressed in the deepest manner conceivable by Mary Brown. She is a central part of the John Brown story. Thank you for bringing her to life. –Larry Lawrence, Chairman, The John Brown Society.

Greg Artzner's and Terry Leonino's "Sword of the Spirit" is more than a thoughtful, moving, and beautifully crafted and performed dramatization of the final days, political and spiritual reflections, and family relations of the abolitionist John Brown. It is a revelation of the man John Brown, and not just in his principled humanity but in his human connectedness, especially to his wife Mary, his partner in sacrifice and high aspiration. Brown's image in American history, forged largely by antagonists of his radical activism and even of his egalitarian goals, has been so much that of the isolated fanatic, marching to his own obsessive drumbeat, that it's hard even for those who know the falseness of this stereotype to escape its influence. Which is why the frank, meditative, defiant, affectionate, humorous, fervent, and weary man that Greg Artzner captures on the stage--a man at once extraordinary and ordinary--is such a revelation. And if John Brown stands so humanly revealed by "Sword of the Spirit," Mary Brown--typically dismissed as a mere subordinate to and victim of her husband's designs--is even more strikingly rescued from distortion and diminishment by Terry Leonino's rich portrayal of her dignity and recovery of her letters' strong voice. To confront the daunting challenges to justice that our new century poses will require all the encouragement and exemplars from the past that we can muster, including the John and Mary Brown who are returned to us in "Sword of the Spirit."
– Evan Carton, Professor of English, University of Texas at Austin, Author of Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America

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