As a major part of the national acknowledgment of the 150th anniversary of John Brown's raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, the Virginia Historical Society hosted "The Portent: John Brown's Raid in American Memory." The exhibition was on display at the VHS October 2009 through April 2010.

John Brown and his followers easily seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, but soon afterwards Brown was captured, and a number of his men were killed. He did succeed, however, in initiating a national debate about slavery.

The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities have generously supported the John Brown exhibition.

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