John Brown: 150 Years Later – Calendar of Events

November 29 – December 5

Ongoing until April 30, 2010
National Archives at Philadelphia, Free
Picturing John Brown (exhibit)

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 of Philadelphia and a private collection. Exhibition will run until April 30, 2010. National Archives business hours. For more information, contact: Located at 9th and Chestnut Streets.

last moments of john brownA print of this painting, Last Moments of John Brown, by Thomas Hovenden is a part of The Charles L. Blockson Collection.

Sunday, November 29
Mother Bethel Church, 11 a.m., Free
John Brown, A Man of Faith – A Program in Music and Words with the Mother Bethel Church choir at the 11 am service, followed by a talk by Charles L. Blockson

Charles Blockson is curator emeritus of The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University and a member of the John Brown Society. In this, he follows an extended family tradition that begins with his grandparents’ membership in the John Brown Club at their church in Norristown. Blockson’s grandfather would sing John Brown’s Body to him as a child and for the longest time Charles Blockson thought John Brown was a black abolitionist like Harriet Tubman. Some of Blockson’s family escaped to Canada guided by Harriet Tubman and an uncle of his was at the Chatham conference when John Brown was recruiting troops there in 1858. Had the raid on Harpers Ferry not been postponed, this uncle would probably have been with Brown at the time. This fascinating family legacy, as well as Blockson’s own diligent and renowned scholarly labors, will inform his talk on the ongoing importance of John Brown’s history. For more information, contact: Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, Pastor at Located at 419 S 16th Street.

Monday November 30
Cliveden, 6:30 p.m., Free
The North’s Slavery Legacy. Open House.

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: or David Young, Executive Director, 215.848.1777, Located at 6401 Germantown Avenue.

Tuesday, December 1
Shiloh Baptist Church, 6 p.m., Free
My Lord What A Mornin….Vigil for John Brown – A Living History Program

When John Brown, leader of the abortive raid on Harpers Ferry to free the slaves, was hung on the bright balmy morning of December 2, 1859, cities and towns throughout the North declared it “Martyr Day,” a day of fasting and prayer in homage to the “Old Man.” Bells were tolled, and businesses and stores were closed and draped in black. Church services and public meetings were held at the hour of his hanging for the purpose of sanctifying the cause he represented. In most instances, these gatherings were initiated and conducted by Black people, although White abolitionists also certainly took part in them.

On Martyr Day in Philadelphia, hundreds of people came together for a Vigil at Shiloh Baptist Church to demonstrate their lasting affection and admiration for John Brown, as well as their deepened commitment to the ideals for which he sacrificed his life. In a sesquicentennial commemoration of this historic event, a living history program, My Lord What A Mornin’, will recreate the prayer vigil held for John Brown at Shiloh in 1859. Professional actors will portray prominent historical figures who came together to pay tribute to Captain Brown. Negro Spirituals sung by the “Black Swan,” the best-known black concert artist of the 19th century, and Shiloh’s Choir under the direction of Beverly Bradley, will be interspersed throughout the 60 minute program. For this reenactment, the “spiritual presence” of John Brown will provide additional dramatic witness and narrative exposition for the audience.

Veteran stage and screen actor, Norman Thomas Marshall, who has portrayed John Brown for nine years in his one-man show, “Trumpet of Freedom,” will portray Brown in the Vigil. Ironically, Marshall was born in Virginia (the state that executed Brown) and is the son of a Klansman and grandson of a slave owner. Shiloh’s current pastor, Rev. Edward Sparkman, will also appear in the production as Rev. Jeremiah Asher, the host pastor of the original vigil.

Other performers include:
Millicent Sparks as Harriet Tubman
Sharon Gary Dixon as Elizabeth Taylor
Greenfield, the “Black Swan”

Maria Wolf as Lucretia Mott
Karen Vicks as Frances Ellen Watkins

Larry Moses as Robert Purvis
Jack Hoffman as Minister White

A Reception will immediately follow the production. For more information, contact: Rev. Edward Sparkman, Pastor, 215.735.2089/2099, or Millicent Sparks, Millicent Sparks Productions, 215/.991.1788, Located at 2040 Christian Street.

Pippin 691896_com_johnbrownh 1942
John Brown Going to His Hanging, Horace Pippin in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.

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 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 their website: Or Monica Zimmerman, 215-972-2105, 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. Dr. Asante will reintroduce us to Brown and argue for why he should be received as an authentic actor for human freedom, someone who was not insane (as many have claimed) but who was rather living in an inhuman and insane context. Charles Blockson is Curator Emeritus and founder of the Charles Blockson Collection at Temple University. He is also a national authority on the Underground Railroad, about which he has written several books, as well as a major article for the July 1984 issue of National Geographic Magazine entitled “Escape From Slavery: The Underground Railroad.” Dr. Molefi Kete Asante is a Professor in the 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: Dr. Diane Turner, Located in Sullivan Hall in the Berks Mall at Temple University.

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2 Comments » for John Brown: 150 Years Later – Calendar of Events
  1. Ann Hull says:

    Hi: I’m trying to find a contact for Millicent Sparks. Can you help me please? Ann Hull, Director, Franklin County Historical Society-Kittochtinny, Chambersburg

  2. nebadon says:

    I have no access to personal information for the people who speak at events. If they are speaking at an upcoming event, then your best bet is to appear at the event and ask for contact info then.