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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Recognizes Anniversary Of John Brown Raid

Harpers Ferry

This weekend marks the anniversary of John Brown’s raid at the U.S. armory in Harpers Ferry.

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Library of Congress

On Oct. 16, 1859, Brown set out to raid the armory for weapons, which would be used to arm those opposed to the institution of slavery. The raid failed when Brown and his men were captured the morning of Oct. 18. A group of U.S. Marines laid siege to the fire engine house, now known as John Brown’s Fort, the raiders had been driven into.

The raid took place more than 160 years ago and is thought of as one of the events that precipitated the Civil War.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park representative Leah Taber says many of the questions the raid raised are still relevant today.

“His impact didn’t just end with the suppression of the raid or the Civil War,” Taber said. “We still are talking about what John Brown means as far as racial justice, or if violence is ever okay as a means to an end.”

The park is putting on a “living history” presentation with the Marine Corps Historical Company, titled “At All Times Ready.” The presentation will show how the raid unfolded on the site’s actual grounds through a first-person perspective of the figures involved.

“It will allow our visitors to experience John Brown’s raid through the stories of those Marines, through townspeople both white and Black and through the eyes of John Brown himself, even, so that they can gain a greater understanding of how Harpers Ferry became one of the key places in civil rights history, ultimately,” Taber said.

The event is scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., beginning on The Green at Harpers Ferry’s historic Lower Town and ending at John Brown’s Fort, which was moved 150 feet from its original location in 1968 after being acquired by the National Park Service eight years prior. Marine Corps Historical Company staffers will also be at the fort from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide education to visitors.