John Brown Book Events and Cell Phone Tour


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 A. 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. Louis A. DeCaro Jr., biographer and student of Brown’s life and letters, is one of a few scholars of our era who has closely and extensively examined the life of this controversial and often misrepresented figure in antebellum U.S. history. In Fire from the Midst of You: A Religious Life of John Brown, DeCaro provided the first religiously-focused biography of the abolitionist, as well as the first full-length biography of Brown in the 21st century. Focusing on Brown’s unique family heritage, reformed evangelical faith, and unusual egalitarian- and justice-oriented relation to the black community, DeCaro furnished an accurate and thoroughly researched alternative to the hackneyed “violent” John Brown foisted upon the public by novelists, documentary-makers, and even academics. DeCaro’s subsequent John Brown–The Cost of Freedom provides another installment of in-depth research, as he revisits major themes in the abolitionist’s story. From Brown’s personality and temperament, to his business history, and finally the Harper’s Ferry raid, DeCaro overturns the fallacies and “hearsay” errors that have plagued Brown’s story for the better part of a century. After DeCaro’s 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. These documents will also be available as part of an online John Brown exhibit. To register or for more information, visit or call 215-732-6200. Or contact: Lauri Cielo, (215) 732-6200 ext. 233, 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 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 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. Of the book, Sir Harold Evans, author of The American Century, has written: “Nobody could save John Brown from the gallows in Charles Town Virginia, on December 2, 1859, but David Reynolds dazzlingly rescues him from misreadings in American history occupying the extremes of the spectrum from Brown as a Christ martyred in the abolitionist cause to Brown as a cruel and wanton terrorist. Reynolds’ scholarly but vivid life [biography] is truly thrilling in the way it peels away the overpainting of 150 years to reveal the old-style Puritan whose soul went marching on into the Civil War and the end of slavery.” And Mason Lowance, Jr., author of A House Divided: The Antebellum Slavery Debates in America, praises: “A thoroughly researched, eloquently articulated study by America’s foremost cultural biographer. The book relates Brown’s militant abolitionism to contemporary cultural forces, to the Garrisonians, to Nat Turner and other slave revolts, to the legacy of New England Puritanism, and to prominent Transcendental abolitionists like Emerson and Thoreau. Reynolds defends John Brown’s place in history without apologizing for his actions, and John Brown, Abolitionist is the most important work on John Brown ever written.” For more information, contact Larry Robin,, or Jacqueline Rios, 215.895.6910, 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. Program includes: teaching strategies, primary resources from some of Philadelphia’s premier cultural institutions, and a presentation from the 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 of Philadelphia, 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: Or call: 215.400.5694. 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 War, produced and directed by Robert Kenner (Influenza 1918) and written by Ken Chowder. Narrated by Joe Morton, this ninety-minute special explores the reluctant revolutionary who helped to trigger the Civil War. For more information contact: or call: 215-574-0380. Or contact: Leslie Willis-Lowry, 215.574.0380 ext. 226, Located at 701 Arch Street.

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: and Contact: V. Chapman-Smith, 215.606.0101,

For decades now, John Brown has often been presented as a fanatic or an outright lunatic. However, there are those who have disputed those claims:

“ John Brown…was a white man who went to war against white people to help free slaves. And any white man who is ready and willing to shed blood for your freedom – in the sight of other whites, he’s nuts.”

Malcolm X

“What we Americans tell ourselves about John Brown provides some measure of the race relations of our age. The sacrifices of Schwerner, Goodman, Liuzzo and other white civil rights martyrs have slowly made possible John Brown’s return to sanity…. For as Brown himself said after his arrest, ‘This Negro question is still to be settled.’”

James W. Loewen – author, Lies My Teacher Told Me

Posted in John Brown