Folk duo Magpie and independent scholar Amy Godine will offer a trio of presentations about abolitionist John Brown.
- Battle Cry of Freedom (Magpie) - MAGPIE's program of music from the Civil War era, like their other programs, goes beyond just the story of the war, of the government and the armies, to tell the personal stories of the people of the times and how they dealt with the crisis gripping the nation. The program begins with music from the abolitionist movement and from the Underground Railroad; the songs deal with Mary Brown, John Brown, Harriet Tubman and with the dangerous flight of the fugitive slaves to freedom in the north. From there the program tells the story of the soldiers and the loved ones they left behind. The songs, including some of the well-known tunes of the day, described the hardships of army life, the difficulties faced by those "keeping the home fires burning," and the patriotic fervor that motivated both sides. Then the program winds down with songs expressing everyone's weariness with the war, with the exception of one "unreconstructed" rebel.
- John Brown Country: History Enshrined, History Betrayed (Amy Godine) -
The John Brown farm and graveyard has been a state historic site since 1895. Writer Amy Godine explores a century-long battle over the last
century for the ownership of John Brown's memory. Who gets to say what
John Brown ought to signify? Social and political conservatives embraced
Brown the Martyr/Emancipator, whose work ended with the abolition of
slavery. Liberals and leftists championed Brown the civil rights
crusader, who moved his family to North Elba to help a struggling farm
colony of free blacks called Timbucto. Whose John Brown rules public
understanding at North Elba?
- Sword of the Spirit (Magpie) - A one-act play based on the life and letters of John and Mary Brown. The time is the end of November, 1859. The place is the county jail in Charlestown, Virginia, (today West Virginia), and also the home of abolitionist Lucretia Mott near Philadelphia. John Brown has spent the last forty days of his life in the jail cell. During this time he has received many visitors, given interviews and composed over one hundred letters to acquaintances, friends, and members of his family, including his wife, Mary. At rise Brown addresses the audience. They are one last "interview" he has agreed to give. He tells them his story, expounding on his life, his beliefs, and what he considers his God-given mission to destroy the evil of slavery. From another part of the stage Mary writes to him from Lucretia Mott’s home, where she has stopped on her journey to see him one last time. She also addresses the audience directly, telling the story of her life with her famous husband to "Mrs. Mott."
Presented by Bob Mulligan
As the richest and most populous state in 1860, New York provided more men, money, and materiel to the Union war effort than any other state. Despite this, the story of that effort is surprisingly under-represented. This slide-lecture looks at some of the efforts and experiences of New Yorkers and our institutions between 1860 and 1866.
Moderated by Assemblymember Jack McEneny and featuring three local professors -- Allen Ballard and Amy Murrell Taylor from the State University at Albany and Bruce Eelman from Siena College -- the panel discussion will provide an interesting evening of historical perspective on one of America's greatest documents.
Panel topics will include:
- The Emancipation Proclamation and the Formation of the USCT-Colored Troops
- How Effective Was Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation?
- The Decision to Issue the Emancipation Proclamation
This is a rare, one-day only public exhibit of one of the NYS Library's - and the nation's - greatest documentary treasures, a handwritten copy of President Abraham Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, 1862, declared that all persons held as slaves within states still in rebellion against the United States on January 1, 1863 "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."
This historic document has been part of the New York State Library's collection since 1865, when it was purchased by the New York State Legislature following the assassination of President Lincoln. It is written in Lincoln's handwriting with notes by Secretary of State William Seward, and portions of the printed Articles of War are pasted into the document.
Presented by Scott Christianson
Author Scott Christianson recounts the life and epic rescue of captured fugitive slave Charles Nalle, who was forcibly liberated by Harriet Tubman and others in Troy and Watervliet, New York, on April 27, 1860. Christianson tracked Nalle from his enslavement in Culpeper, Virginia through his escape by the Underground Railroad and his experiences in the North in the leadup to the Civil War. This engaging narrative represents the first in-depth historical study of this crucial incident, one of the fiercest anti-slavery riots after Harpers Ferry. His investigative history presents a richly detailed look at slavery culture in antebellum Virginia and probes the deepest political and psychological aspects of this epic tale. The account also underscores fundamental questions about racial inequality, the rule of law, civil disobedience, and violent resistance to slavery in the antebellum North and South.
Scott Christianson spent more than 18 years researching and writing his new book, Freeing Charles: The Struggle to Free a Slave on the Eve of the Civil War, about the epic rescue of captured fugitive slave Charles Nalle in Troy and West Troy in 1860. He is the award-winning author of numerous books, including With Liberty for Some and The Last Gasp, and has published hundreds of articles in The New York Times, The Nation, Journal of American History, and other journals. Christianson lives in a Sand Lake house that used to be part of the Underground Railroad.
Presented by Harry B. Matthews
President Abraham Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the United States, but rather set into motion the eventual enlistment of 200,000 black soldiers into the Union ranks. The stories of many of those soldiers have been lost in history, yet recent efforts have energized the movement to connect some of the soldiers with their descendants.
Matthews' presentation will share some of the history and resources of the time period that can help today's citizens with documenting family connections and local history with African American soldiers of the Civil War. The presentation will draw up some of the content of Matthews' recent publication, African American Freedom Journey in New York and Related Sites, 1823-1870: Freedom Knows No Color, published in 2008 by Africana Homestead Legacy Publishers, ISBN 978-0-9799537-4-3.
Christine Beauregard and Jim Summa, Senior Librarians at the New York State Library, will provide an overview of materials in the State Library's collections that can be used to research the Civil War, including regimental units, individual soldiers, diaries, correspondence, broadsides, etc.
Keith Swaney, Archives & Records Management Specialist at the New York State Archives, will discuss materials in the State Archives' collections that can be used to research the Civil War such as the Civil War Soldier database, abstracts of muster rolls, etc.
Presented by Michael Aikey
In July 1998 the International Criminal Court stated, "conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime. On June 26, 1861, twelve-year-old Gustav Schurmann enlisted in the 40th New York Volunteer Infantry with his father. Gustav mustered out as a veteran at the end of the Civil War, age fifteen. Over 170 New York State children under age 15 fought in the Union Army during the Civil war. The total number of children under age 18 who served from the North was over 6,000. This presentation will outline and discuss a time when America sent its children to war.
Michael Aikey is the director of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs, NY. He has been with the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA) since 1996 serving successively as the Director of the New York State Military History Task Force, Librarian/Archivist, Deputy Director and moving to the directorship of the Museum/Research Center in 2002. A graduate of the State University of New York at Albany's School of Information Science and Policy, he worked in both public and academic libraries before coming to DMNA.
Active in history, Mr. Aikey was a founding member of the Capital District Civil War Round Table, has published articles on military history, guest curated several museum exhibits and worked as an NEA grant consultant. He lectures on New York State military history and the Civil War. Currently he serves on the Capital District Library Council's board of directors. His spare time is frequently involved in historical research, tinkering with classic British cars.
Movies: Abe Lincoln in Illinois and Amistad
Abe Lincoln in Illinois: This 1940 biographical film tells the story of the life of Abraham Lincoln, from his departure from Kentucky until his election as President of the United States.
Amistad: This 1997 film, directed by Steven Spielberg, is based on the true story of a slave mutiny that took place aboard ship Amistad in 1839, and the legal battle that followed.
"Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation" has been organized by the Huntington Library and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, in cooperation with the American Library Association Public Programs Office. This exhibition was made possible by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.