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John Brown to be remembered next weekend

LAKE PLACID - One of the region's most prominent historical figures will be the center of attention next weekend as a coalition of cultural, educational and historic organizations presents a series of activities to commemorate his life and his death.

John Brown moved his family to North Elba in 1849 to assist with a free black settlement called "Timbucto." Ten years later, he and his followers attacked the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry in an ill-fated attempt to incite a slave revolt. He was subsequently tried, convicted and executed, and his body was transported back to his home in Lake Placid.

"John Brown Coming Home," an initiative to commemorate the 150th anniversary of those events, will feature an illustrious series of events across Essex County Dec. 4-8.

The weekend of events kicks off at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts Dec. 4 at 5 p.m. as area students who have been working in concert with professional artists present personal works of art, dance, song, and poetry inspired by Brown's legacy.

At 7:30 p.m., J.W. Wiley, Director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion for SUNY-Plattsburgh, will lead an exploration of contemporary films about present-day slavery and how they relate to the historic conditions of racism that motivated John Brown. The event is presented by the Adirondack Film Society, and a reception will follow.

Saturday, Dec. 5, the High Peaks Resort will host a Symposium on the Life and Legacy of John Brown. This event begins at 9 a.m. and will feature well-noted professors and historians speaking on the African-American experience in the years surrounding the Civil War and the experiences and faith that shaped John Brown.

"A lot of attention has been given this year to the actions of John Brown and the abolitionists who supported him, and not enough to the critical role that Black Americans played in setting the stage and forcing the issue of slavery on the national conscious," said Naj Wikoff, coordinator of the 150th Commemoration of John Brown, "It was Free Blacks who took up Gerrit Smith's offer to leave the urban environment to the Adirondack wilderness in an attempt to create a new beginning; without them John Brown would never have moved here where his raid was planned."

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