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John Brown Returns to the Midwest

<i>Portrait of John Brown</I>,1846 or 1847, taken by daguerrotypist Augustus Washington in his Hartford studio.
courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Portrait of John Brown,1846 or 1847, taken by daguerrotypist Augustus Washington in his Hartford studio.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently acquired a rare daguerreotype of abolitionist John Brown. A daguerreotype is one of the earliest forms of photography and created a one-of-a-kind image. And this portrait is one of only six known daguerreotypes of the anti-slavery militant who's still somewhat of a controversial figure. Some view John Brown as a religious fanatic; others say he was a freedom fighter.

The photograph was taken by Augustus Washington - one of the few African-American daguerreotypists at the time (1846 or 1847) - more than a decade before Brown's ill-fated raid on an arsenal in Harper's Ferry, Virginia that he hoped would spark an anti-slavery rebellion.

KCUR's Laura Spencer met Assistant Curator Jane Aspinwall in the photography galleries at the Bloch Building to talk about the importance of the work and the process of creating a daguerreotype, the earliest form of photography.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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