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Monday, November 12, 2012

Sneak Peek from the Stacks: A Voice from Harpers Ferry

Henrietta Leary Evans (1827–1908) was among the approximately one hundred men and women gathered at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for the second annual meeting of the Niagara Movement, an African American civil rights organization founded by W.E.B. DuBois in the early twentieth century. The organizers of the meeting set aside a day to honor John Brown, an abolitionist who unsuccessfully attempted to free enslaved African Americans in his 1859 raid of Harpers Ferry. In an article for The Negro Voice, Jesse Max Barber described John Brown’s Day at the convention as “the most interesting session of the whole four days at Harpers Ferry.” Several speakers addressed the audience that August 17, 1906, including Lewis Douglass, son of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, W.E. B. Du Bois, and Rev. Reverdy C. Ransom. Newspapers reported on the greatest of the orations given by both Du Bois and Rev. Ransom. However, Henrietta Leary Evans also captivated attendees that afternoon with words about two of the five African American participants with John Brown: Lewis Sheridan Leary, Mrs. Evans’s brother, and her nephew, John A. Copeland.
Jesse Max Barber provides a description of Mrs. Evans’s comments in his article, “The Niagara Movement at Harpers Ferry.”  Barber writes:“
"Mrs. Evans was asked to say a word. In a voice made slender by age she told of the bravery, the love for freedom and the self-sacrifice of her kinsmen in dying as they died for the race. Of her brother she said his enemies paid him the tribute of saying that he was a very brave man. The whole audience hung with bated breath upon every word uttered by Mrs. Evans and what she said made a great impression.”
Henrietta Leary Evans, 1906.  Evans-Tibbs Collections
Photograph by Addison N. Scurlock
The above portrait of Mrs. Evans by Addison N. Scurlock was taken in 1906 and forms part of the vast family photographs and albums found in the Evans-Tibbs Collection at the Anacostia Community Museum Archives. 

To learn more about Henrietta Leary Evans and her pioneering family see the following resources:
Jennifer Morris

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