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Video & Photos: John Brown Hanging Reenactment
John Brown was hanged in Charles Town, Va., on December 2, 1859, for his failed raid of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. To commemorate the 150th anniversary, there is a reenactment of his execution on December 2, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Jefferson County Courthouse.
John Brown actor Greg Artzner and his wife Terry Leonino of New York will portray John and Mary Brown. After the verdict from the trial is read, he will be led by horse drawn wagon, atop a coffin, just as Brown was, six blocks to the site of the hanging.
Brown and his men raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859, in a failed attempt to free the slaves. Seventeen people died. The first casualty was a black man. A jury of Jefferson County men found Brown guilty of treason and inciting slaves to rebellion.
Visitors can watch along the sidelines, or follow the wagon procession to the replica of the gallows at the residence where he was hanged, currently owned by Gene Perkins. A short program includes comments by Alice Keesey Mecoy, great-great-great granddaughter of Brown, and a wreath laying. The John Blessing house will be open for tours. He was a local baker and confectioner who befriended Brown during his imprisonment. It’s at 303 E. North Street, and now owned by Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society.
Public events are planned at the Jefferson County Museum and Jefferson County Courthouse. The commemoration is sponsored by the Jefferson County Branch of NAACP, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Job Corps, Jefferson County Commission, cities of Charles Town and Ranson, Charles Town Police Department, and Gene Perkins.
The Artzners are actors, playwrights and musicians. They have traveled and toured extensively, performed in concerts, at folk clubs and festivals around the world, and recorded many times. From traditional, classic country, swing, and blues of the nineteen twenties and thirties, to contemporary songs written by themselves and others, they cover a lot of musical ground.
Over the years, they have become distinguished for producing programs of music for museums (including the Smithsonian Institution), schools, and other special events. They are master artists with the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, and in that capacity have worked in many residency programs and teacher training workshops. In fact, they are leaving a workshop in New York to travel to Charles Town, and then back to the workshop on Thursday.
They may be well known to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park visitors, as they have played the Browns there since the premiere of their one-act, “Sword of the Spirit” at the Old Opera House in Charles Town in 2000. The play about the final days of John Brown showcases his connection to his wife, partner in aspiration and ultimate sacrifice, and it explores more to the man than just radical activist. They were also part of the symposium last October in Charles Town.
For more information on the event, contact Jefferson County NAACP at (304) 725-9610.
Photo in slideshow courtesy of Andrew Broadhurst.