Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Evening on the Underground Railroad
Join Penn State Altoona on the path to freedom!

The Penn State Altoona History Society will be hosting a lecture and lantern tour on the evening of Monday April 26. Beginning at 7 p.m. in room 134 Hawthorn Building, nationally known historian Dennis Frye will speak of abolitionist John Brown's 1859 slave raid on Harpers Ferry, WV. Frye, a published author and National Park Service historian, has been featured on PBS and the History Channel in addition to serving as associate producer for the 2003 Civil War movie "Gods and Generals."

Following Frye's discussion, attendees of the event will be guided on a lantern-led tour, stopping at numerous "stations" on the Underground Railroad. At each stop, a historical vignette will be performed by period-dressed interpreters portraying figures such as Harriet Tubman, Henry David Thoreau, John Brown, U.S. Marines, and others. This unique interpretive event will include audience participation and historical activities. Comfortable footwear and flashlights are recommended for this quarter mile walk. The event will be held regardless of weather.

After the tour's conclusion, guests will be invited for free refreshments at the Laurel Pavilion where they can enjoy period music and treats. The evening's activities are free and open to the general public. Participants will begin their tour immediately following the lecture. For more information, email The tour is hosted by the Penn State Altoona History Society and commemorates the Underground Railroad as well as the Civil War Sesquicentennial initiative.


  1. With all due respect to Dennis Frye in his overall capacity as a National Park Service professional, the National Park Service view of John Brown is fundamentally hostile and problematic. The interpretation of the raid and John Brown conveyed by Frye and others at Harper's Ferry is highly problematic and prejudiced. It is not even exaggerating to say that despite the necessity of presenting the story of the raid, the NPS views Brown with contempt. Perhaps you should have invited David Reynolds or Evan Carton, who are eminently more qualified to discuss John Brown.

  2. Hi. Thank you for your comments. But as a former volunteer and historical interpreter at Harpers Ferry, I must disagree with your sentiments about the NPS's approach to John Brown. At least as I viewed the situation, Brown is a man that visitors to the park can either love or hate, and thus most rangers attempt to remain neutral and respect the viewpoints of all visitors. If you attended the 150th anniversary at the park this past October, I think would would have witnessed a wide but mutually respectful series of viewpoints by historians and participants alike. Whereas the view of Brown in decades past was painted more radical, more recent approaches have been much more generous toward Brown's opinions and moral goals. I can't speak for the park as a whole, but I would say the opposite of your views is occurring within the greater historical community. And believe me, Dennis Frye is very emotionally invested in correctly portraying Brown and his compatriots in the most historically correct interpretation possible. Anybody on his anniversary procession would admit that fact. Overall, I respectfully disagree with your viewpoint but welcome your discussion nonetheless. Thank you.

    Jared Frederick
    Penn State Altoona