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John Brown Day features local performers

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.

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