Jean Libby Writes
Much gratitude to all who made the program “Santa Clara County Connections to the Civil War” at the Sunnyvale Public Library on March 7 a public history event.
African welcome was created by Keisha and Peter Evans, the proprietors of Pan African City Alive! in Sunnyvale (www.panafricancity.com), a community resource for all things Africentric that was appreciated by the audience of more than 100 people.
The welcome was notable for the sharing of an artefact of the John Brown raid, an 1853 Sharps rifle, by Mick Konowal, who is a senior attorney for Microsoft Corporation at their Washington state headquarters. It had been owned (his name hand-engraved on the stock) by Dauphin Thompson. It was taken from his hands at the time he was bayoneted to death by the U.S. Marines in the enginehouse at Harpers Ferry on October 18, 1859. For 152 years the carbine was in the family of Major William Worthington Russell, as well as a pike that was identified by serial number as taken from the raid.
Many thanks to Tony Horwitz, the author of Midnight Rising; John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War (Henry Holt, 2011) for recommending me to Mick Konowal, and especially to the new owner of the artefacts for sharing his treasures in public history spirit. Mick has a Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Washington and is a member of the Manuscript Society. He can be reached at email@example.com
Members of the South Bay and San Francisco Civil War Round Tables assisted with viewing the rifle. (www.sbcwrt.org) Larry Gonzalez of SBCWRT and Debbie Grace, re-enactor and cannon specialist, did the honors posts.
The John Brown Photo Chronology, authored and curated by Jean Libby is on view at the Sunnyvale Public Library until March 17. I am very grateful to Bill Noyes and these organizations for workshops and installation.
John William Templeton spoke about the Underground Railroad in California, documentation for which begins in 1850 in San Jose. John’s style is always interactive, and this program is no exception. He spoke about Rev. Peter Williams Cassey, the first ordained Episcopal deacon of color in the West, connected with the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in San Jose, founded in 1863. His interests and publications on black technology innovators in Silicon Valley (another name for the heart of Santa Clara County ) and jazz are welcome as well. (www.Californiablackhistory.com)
‘Am I Not John Brown’s Daughter?’ Annie Brown in the Civil War, took on new meaning with the discovery of “ANNIE” etched secretly behind the sling bar on Dauphin Thompson’s rifle. Annie was fifteen when she was with her father’s army at the Kennedy Farm in Maryland in the summer of 1859. Dauphin and his brother William Thompson as well as Annie’s brothers Oliver and Watson Brown were all killed in the raid. Her grief was alleviated a bit by becoming a teacher among freedmen at Fortress Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1863, at Rolleston, the confiscated mansion of the former governor, Henry A. Wise. Documentation grows to support this part of Annie Brown’s story. Sources: “Living Legacies of Harpers Ferry” by Sandra Weber of Pennsylvania in Civil War Times Illustrated, February 2005 and Robert F. Engs, Freedom’s First Generation: Black Hampton, Virginia 1861-1890 (Fordham University Press, 2004). Thank you, Sandra, for your warm and excellent work (longtime John Brown Scholar).
Members of the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society, who also came to Mary Brown’s birthday party at the Saratoga Community Library on April 15, 2011, were back in Sunnyvale. Special thanks to Mary Hanel at the Santa Clara City Library. We look forward to including your presentation about Sarah Brown at Mary Brown and Her Daughters’ Homecoming in Saratoga at Hakone Gardens on September 25, 2012 (www.alliesforfreedom.org/Mary_Anne_Day_Brown_birthday.html).
Alice Mecoy, descendant of Annie Brown Adams, is scheduled to keynote the Saratoga Homecoming event in September.
The community audience included Mattie Tinsley from African American Heritage House in San Jose.
Journalism coverage is under the auspices of Create TV, who will have a broadcast on Channel 15 Comcast that includes interviews at Pan African City Alive! and the library event. Thomas Libby, history columnist at California Lawyer Magazine, will follow up with the legal side of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines and attempted seizure by President Abraham Lincoln in May, 1863, presented by Bill Noyes as the third portion of the program. Bill's presentation is based on the work of R. Larry Comstock for SBCWRT.
Susan Denniston, administrative librarian at the Sunnyvale Public Library, and the staff made it all happen. Thank you, Susan, for your flexibility and making guns and elephants and even a giraffe right at home.
With gratitude and smiles,
Allies for Freedom