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John Brown Exhibit on Display at West Virginia University



Nineteenth century sketches depicting the trial and hanging of abolitionist John Brown, and the uniform of a Confederate militia commander who helped halt his Harpers Ferry insurrection are on display at West Virginia University.


The drawings by David Hunter Strother, also known as Porte Crayon, are part of a vast and valuable collection the university has owned for more than 20 years, says John Cuthbert, curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection.


They are on display now through December because Oct. 16 is the 150th anniversary of Brown’s failed attempt to seize a Union arsenal, arm a guerrilla force and launch a revolution to end slavery.


The Strother collection includes hundreds of drawings, as well as diaries and letters, Cuthbert said Monday, but only the “tiny quantity” that relates to Brown are currently on display.


Brown was convicted of treason, murder and inciting a rebellion. Strother documented the trial and Brown’s subsequent execution in Charles Town, W.Va.


Two galleries on the sixth floor of the Wise Library are filled with memorabilia illustrating not only the role that Brown played in propelling the nation toward Civil War, but also the role Harpers Ferry had in the early days of the American civil rights movement.


It was in Harpers Ferry that the forerunner of the NAACP, the Niagara Movement, first met on U.S. soil.


Harpers Ferry is also home to Storer College, which began educating newly freed slaves in 1865. A guest book the college kept with the names of those who visited the site of Brown’s fort is part of WVU’s display.


Cuthbert said he also has created a traveling version of the WVU exhibit, with  â€śfacsimiles indistinguishable from the originals” available for loan to public libraries, historical groups and other organizations.


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