LAKE PLACID - 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry and his subsequent trial and execution. The annual John Brown Day Celebration on May 8-9 in Elizabethtown and Lake Placid, respectively, will launch a yearlong commemoration of Brown, whose raid on Harper's Ferry set the nation on a path to Civil War.
On Friday, May 8, the 1940 western "Santa Fe Trail" will be shown at the Old County Courthouse in Elizabethtown at 7 p.m. The film features Raymond Massey as Brown and also stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Ronald Reagan. Brendan Mills, Site Manager at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, will lead a post-screening discussion.
The John Brown Day Celebration will continue on Saturday, May 9, the anniversary of Brown's birth, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site on the outskirts of Lake Placid.
JW Wiley, Director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, will give the keynote address, entitled "Black & Brown: A Contemporary Perspective on John Brown's Impact on Black America."
Author and storyteller Sandra Weber will perform an original work, "Times of Trouble" about the life of Mary Day Brown, wife of John Brown. In period costume, Weber and musician David Hodges will weave narrative and song to present a portrait of Mary, from her early life and marriage to John through her hardest times of trouble in the aftermath of the Harpers Ferry raid.
Anti-slavery singer Jim Mandracchia will perform hymns and freedom ballads from the period and Brad Hurlburt, a teacher in Keene Valley, will give a dramatic reading of Brown's last letter home to Mary in which he expresses his final wish that his body be brought back home and buried at the family homestead in North Elba.
Westport author and filmmaker Libby MacDonald will talk about her research for a book on a remarkable Crown Point girl who came of age in the early nineteenth century when the religious revival inspired abolitionist fervor in the Adirondack Mountains. Naj Wikoff and other invited guests will also participate in this first-in-a-series of commemorative programs that will take place in the North Country.
Commemorations of Brown's raid, trial and execution, events described as the spark that lit the fires of the Civil War, are also being planned nationwide.
In October, the city of Harper's Ferry, in partnership with the John Brown National Park, the city of Charles Town, WV and with the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, will host a 150th commemoration of the Raid and Trial.
The Town of North Elba and Essex County, in partnership with the Adirondack Center for History, the Lake Placid North Elba Historical Society and John Brown Lives!, and lead by the Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau, are planning their own special events, which will be announced at a press conference held as part of the May 9 activities.
John Brown Day is free, open to the public and will be held outdoors. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Martha Swan, John Brown Lives! at 962-4758.
For more information about the yearlong commemoration in the Adirondacks, contact Naj Wikoff at the Lake Placid Visitor's Bureau.