But local historians say either way Brown is pegged — mad man or hero — he has left an important mark on American history.
This year, beginning in April, lessons of Brown will be relearned with special events and activities throughout 2009. The 150th commemoration kicks off Saturday, April 18, in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia and continue throughout the quad-state region, ending in December, the anniversary of his death.
According to Todd Bolton, events committee chair of the Sesquicentennial Quad-State Committee, because Brown’s story starts long before Brown marched into Harpers Ferry, W.Va., from the Kennedy Farm in nearby Keedeysville activities are spread through the region.
Bolton, along with Dennis Frye, chief historian at Harpers Ferry NHP and chair of the John Brown Sesquicentennial Quad-State Committee, said there many places where people can get the Brown experience.
From the Kennedy Farm to the John Brown House in Chambersburg, Pa., there are plenty of places to walk in Brown’s footsteps.
Bolton, who is also supervisory park ranger for Harpers Ferry NHP, said the John Brown Wax Museum tries to give a more complete story of Brown. The museum is at 168 High St. in historic Harpers Ferry.
Bolton said Harpers Ferry NHP doesn’t take a side when it comes to Brown’s guilt or innocence, therefore, neither does the museum.
He said the first part sits up what America was like prior to 1859, as well as slavery in North America.
The second part of the museum is the story that Harpers Ferry knows so well — the 36 hours of the raid and Brown’s capture.
The third part of the museum tells the reaction to the raid and the aftermath of the event in both North and South.
“An earlier interpretation of the museum gave the story of John Brown, but it now tells the story in the context of its time,” he said.
Frye said while in Harpers Ferry, a good place to experience Brown would be John Brown’s Fort. He said it might not be in the exact site it once was; the fort has been moved four times. It might have been rebuilt as well. But it’s still a historical building, he said, and still a building associated with Brown.
“It’s something uniquely American,” he said.
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