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Niagara Movement centennial draws to a close

August 21, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - History buffs and others continued to enjoy the 100th anniversary of the Niagara Movement on Sunday, including about 300 people who traced the steps of an inspirational walk to pay tribute to abolitionist John Brown.

The Niagara Movement involved a 1906 meeting in Harpers Ferry of black leaders and others who were working for freedom and equality for blacks.

The movement became the foundation for the formation of the NAACP.

At the 1906 meeting, Niagara Movement members honored the memory of abolitionist John Brown by walking to the fort where he was captured in Harpers Ferry at the start of the Civil War.

Brown had a plan to start a war against slavery, but he was captured in a fire engine house after he and others raided Harpers Ferry.

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In 1906, members of the Niagara Movement removed their socks and shoes as they walked upon hallowed ground where Brown's fort stood.

On Sunday morning, about 300 people followed the same path. When they arrived at the site, a solo trumpet player performed "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," said Todd Bolton, the National Park Service's project director for the centennial celebration.

"I had tears in my eye," Bolton said.

The rest of the events Sunday included music performances and a scheduled 1:30 p.m. event set aside for reflections on the life of W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the founders of the Niagara Movement.

During a closing ceremony late Sunday afternoon, Bolton, George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County chapter of the NAACP, and others were honored for their work in organizing the celebration.

A group photograph of those present was taken on the campus of Storer College, where many of the events were held.

"We go forward and make the country better," master of ceremonies Askia Muhammad said during the closing ceremony.

Park Superintendent Donald Campbell estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 people attended the four-day event.

"I think it went remarkably smooth. We really had no hitches in the program," Campbell said.

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