What other dates on the revolutionary calender of United States history can compete for importance with those of John Brown; his raid on Harper’s Ferry of October 16th, 1859 and his execution six weeks later on December 2nd? Admittedly a subjective question, but I would hazard an opinion that comrades could come up with very few.
John Brown is one of those figures who will always fascinate, always confound and always, despite his failings, inspire. I am convinced he will be remembered, if we survive as a species, in a thousand years. Not so much for what he did, but for what he represents. Though what he did and his martyrdom should be marked as well. Brown was a remarkable man. As a comrade and I once stood looking at a display of the sword “Oswatamie Brown” wielded he turned to me and sad, “Brown was our kind of guy.” Yep, though I might have found his leadership a little vexing (to say the least).
Since the events ending in his execution for treason and especially in the century following them the anniversary has been an occasion to rejoice in the freedom struggle and to take measure of where that struggle stood. Bells were wrung from black churches for decades after on the date of Brown’s hanging. DuBois and the early NAACP held events every year around the dates and out of these exchanges movements were born and compared to.
For an American leftist it is almost a haj, a necessary rite of membership, to visit Harper’s Ferry and I have made several. It is conveniently placed on the road to DC so the trip to a national demo in Washington allows for an easy stop. I sincerely hope that the left and the black liberation movement will be offering their own commemorations. Official America has its continued problem with how to present Brown though Harper’s Ferry is now a National Park and I must say that the displays and presentation are excellent and a trip there should be viewed as compulsory for any student of history.
A ton of events for the 150th Anniversary are already announced. State and local sponsored events are numerous and some of them look quite good. I hope to attend the march from Brown’s staging point a few miles away, The Kennedy Farm, to Harper’s Ferry. As the anniversary approaches I’ll post more info and thoughts. Take this as a heads up to make plans this October. If you know of left events associated with the anniversary let me know. Here is David Rovic singing his “John Brown”; the whole history of Brown in a single excellent song. I hope I get to see him sing it somewhere this fall.