Aaron Mair laying a wreath at John Brown’s grave

In 1849, John Brown moved his family to a lonely farm in North Elba, N.Y., a post from where he’d work to help free Black New Yorkers build new lives in the rocky Adirondack soil. Ten years later, he led his audacious raid on the armory at Harpers Ferry, W. Va., seeking to steal enough weapons to arm an insurrection and bring an end to slavery.

The raid failed. He was caught, tried and executed.

In 1999, 140 years later, John Brown Lives! was born. Our mission is to not just to honor John Brown’s forceful voice in bringing an end to slavery, but to take his lead and follow in his footsteps, promoting social justice and human rights through reflection and activism, awareness and exploration, kinship and individual action.

While many of our programs are rooted in Adirondack history, all of them draw on a spirit of community engagement and conversation as we bring together artists, educators, scholars, teachers and writers to find ways to broaden justice and equity for all, everywhere.

Our work addresses:

  • Civil rights
  • Climate justice
  • Human trafficking
  • Immigrant rights
  • Mass incarceration
  • Voting rights

We sponsor surprising collaborations, groundbreaking research, community dialogue, and cultural initiatives that upend conventional narratives, provide portals for oft-avoided conversations, and facilitate examination of our history and for its useful legacies in the present. Our annual John Brown Day, held each year on the first Saturday of May, both celebrates his legacy and honors those who carry the torch today through their own bold works.

In addition, we are the official Friends Group of the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and promotion of this valuable resource, which is open to the public all year round.  In May of 2021, John Brown Lives! was welcomed as a Network to Freedom partner through the National Park Service.