150th Anniversary of the Raid at Harpers Ferry:
October 16, 1859

John Brown: The Crusader and His Legacy 
October 23 - December 5
Various locations

Contact larry@robinsbookstore.com

More information on John Brown, his Philadelphia connections, and his role in the African American experience


Download (Adobe Acrobat format): one-page events calendar

John Brown has been called “the most controversial of all 19th Century Americans”. A strident abolitionist, Brown has been viewed as both a fanatic and martyr.  Artist John Steuart Curry has even depicted him as the “Moses” of Kansas in his great mural at the Kansas State Capitol.  However Brown is seen, he reveals much about us as Americans.  His imprint is in virtually every community in our nation.  In Philadelphia, a major abolition hub, the home of the largest northern free black community, and also a nexus for pro-slavery ties and sentiments, John Brown loomed large.

Through civic discussions, lectures, performance and the creative arts, and education programs for teachers and students, this series explores Brown, his relationship with contemporaries like Harriet Tubman, and the relevance of their efforts to contemporary life.  A partnership program, led by Moonstone Arts Center, which includes the Charles Blockson Collection, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League, the National Archives, the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Mother Bethel AME Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the School District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Atwater Kent Museum, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, Civil War History Consortium, and Philadelphia Quest for Freedom, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. 

The series kicks off in October, the month of John Brown’s raid, and concludes in December, when Brown was executed and his body traveled to Philadelphia . This program also marks the 160th Anniversary of Harriet Tubman flight to freedom and arrival in Philadelphia.  Tubman, whom Brown respectfully called “General Tubman”, was an inspiration to John Brown.

Calendar of Events:

  • Friday – Saturday, October 23-25 ­- Quest for Freedom Live and Learn: Race and Identity, Free. Featured book talk with the author on Friday: Thulani Davis’ memoir, My Confederate Kinfolk: A Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots, a gripping American tale that chronicles her family’s lineage, ties to slavery, and the making of ‘race’ in America. Discussion led by Dr. Robert F. Engs, distinguished historian of Southern History. Saturday: Finding My Roots genealogy workshop with Jefferson Moak (National Archives at Philadelphia) and Shamele Jordon (African American Genealogy Group) and, with museum admission, viewing of the African American Museum’s new core exhibition, Audacious Freedom. Sunday: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Birth of the Cool: Barkley Hendricks exhibit at PAFA’s Free Sunday Series.

  • Friday, October 23 – National Archives at Philadelphia – Picturing John Brown (exhibit).  Opening of John Brown scholar Jean Libby’s photographic exhibit of John Brown images.  Supplemented with rare John Brown materials and artifacts in Philadelphia from the Atwater Kent Museum and a private collection. Exhibition will run until April 30, 2010. Open, free to the public, National Archives business hours. www.archives.gov/midatlantic

  • Sunday, November 29 – Mother Bethel Church, Free -John Brown a Man of Faith: In Music and Words. Mother Bethel Church choir at 11 am service, followed by public program featuring a talk on John Brown by Charles Blockson, Emeritus Curator – Charles Blockson Collection at Temple University.

  • Monday November 30 – Cliveden, 6:30 p.m., Free – The North’s Slavery Legacy. Open House. 6:30 p.m.  Through the lives of the Chew family, learn how slavery produced northern wealth and was engrained in northern life-styles.  Learn about the enslaved people that worked for the Chews and how their story is changing the interpretive program at Cliveden. For more information contact: info@cliveden.org

  • Tuesday, December 1Shiloh Baptist Church, 6 p.m. Free - Philadelphia’s Vigil for John Brown’s Hanging.  This day marks the 150th anniversary of vigils held for John Brown in Philadelphia. Experience a living history performance honoring the vigils held by the black community and abolitionists for John Brown and his men. This program is written and produced by Philadelphia’s Millicent Sparks and will feature music by Shiloh Baptist Church. [download flyer in Adobe Acrobat format]. (Part of the performance included a free will offering "in support of Mrs. Brown and the family", an offering that was collected at the original vigil. The offering totaled $289.55, which was donated to Shiloh Baptist Church.)

  • Wednesday, December 2, noon – 1 pm, Free – Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Hamilton Auditorium, 118 N. Broad St.  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 Harper's Ferry and subsequent execution caused stirrings across the nation. For years, artists have depicted these events in myriad ways, including an iconic painting by Horace Pippin titled John Brown Going to His Hanging. Join art historian and Pippin expert Judith Stein on this historic anniversary for a discussion of Pippin's painting and the quietly heroic figure of John Brown that it portrays. This program is part of the Art-at-Lunch Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact PAFA at 215-972-2105 or visit our website: www.pafa.org/aal.

  • Wednesday, December 2 – Charles Blockson Collection, Temple University, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., FreeConversation 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, the Underground Railroad and John Brown's relationship with the African American community.  Dr. Asante will present "John Brown: An Authentic Hero of Liberty", where he will examine the reason why most Americans have forgotten the thoughts and deeds of John Brown. Dr Asante will reintroduce us to John Brown and Brown as an authentic actor for human freedom, showing that Brown was not insane but simply living in an inhuman and insane context. Charles Blockson is national authority on the Underground Railroad and Curator Emeritus and founder of the Charles Blockson Collection at Temple University.  Dr. Molefi Kete Asante is Professor, Department of African American Studies at Temple University. He is the author of seventy books, including African American History: A Journey of Liberation. For more information contact: aberhanu@temple.edu

  • Wednesday, December 2, 6 pm, Free – Historical Society of Pennsylvania/Library Company of Philadelphia, 1300 Locust Street – The Empty Coffin: John Brown and Philadelphia.   After his death, John Brown's body traveled through Philadelphia. The mayor worried about riots in the streets, so a plan was devised to sneak Brown's body away safely. Learn about this story and commemorate the anniversary of this pivotal moment in the struggle for civil rights. The guest speaker will be Dr. Louis A. DeCaro Jr., author of Fire from the Midst of You: A Religious Life of John Brown. After the lecture, guests can view original documents from the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company of Philadelphia, including John Brown's will. The documents will also be available as an online John Brown exhibit. FREE. To register, visit www.hsp.org or call 215-732-6200 for more information.

  • Friday, December 4 – 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, Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Reynold’s 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 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

  • Saturday, December 5 - African American Museum of Philadelphia, 9:30 a.m., Free - John Brown for Educators and Students – Join author David S. Reynolds to explore bringing the John Brown story into the classroom. Program includes: teaching strategies, primary resources from some of Philadelphia’s premier cultural institutions, and presentation of Constitution High School students John Brown Debate.  This is a collaborative initiative of the African American Museum of Philadelphia, the National Archives at Philadelphia, the Atwater Kent Museum, the Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia School District.  Act 48 credits awarded. Limited seating. To register, contact: Melvin Garrison at: mgarriso@phila.K12.pa.us.

  • Saturday, December 5 – African American Museum of Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m. -  PBS films – John Brown’s Holy War.  For more information contact: www.aampmuseum.org or call: 215.574-0380.
  • John Brown in Philadelphia, a Cell Phone Tour. Using your cell phone (or any telephone), 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.  Free. (In development; more tour stops coming soon.)
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