MORGANTOWN , W.Va.West Virginia University Libraries will celebrate West Virginias birthday (June 20, 1863) on Friday, June 19 with a lecture and an exhibit about abolitionist John Brown at the Charles C. Wise Library.

This year is the 150th anniversary of John Browns raid on Harpers Ferry. On Oct. 16, 1859, Brown and a band of followers seized control of the Harpers Ferry Armory in a plot to build an army to overthrow the South and free the slaves.

John Browns raid is one of the most poignant events in American history,said John Cuthbert, curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection.Perhaps more than any other single act, it led to the outbreak of the Civil War. John Brown has been cited as the person who contributed more than any other to the start of the Civil War.

A speaker and an exhibit will help attendees better understand Brown, his actions, and the complexities of the issues that divided the nation.

Activities will begin at 9:30 a.m. with a reception in the Milano Reading Room. At 10 a.m., Paul Finkelman, a professor at Albany Law School and a specialist in American legal history, race, slavery, and the law, will talk about legal issues and public sentiment surrounding Browns trial. Finkelman, an often-cited legal historian, has authored more than 100 articles and 20 books, includingHis Soul Goes Marching on: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid.

There will be a question-and-answer period following Finkelmans presentation.

At noon, an exhibit focusing on David Hunter Strothers sketches of Browns raid and the aftermath opens in the J. Hornor Davis Family Galleries on the sixth floor of the Wise Library. West Virginia Day 2009 posters will be distributed to all who attend.

Strother was one of the most outstanding primary resources in terms of eyewitness accounts. Arriving in Harpers Ferry within 36 hours of the raid, Strother saw Brown and some of his co-conspirators lying wounded on the floor of a makeshift jail before they received medical attention.

Even before authorities had the chance to extensively question Brown, Strother talked with him about his failed plot. Strother also made many sketches of Brown and co-conspirators at that time and then later during Browns trial and execution.

David Hunter Strother was a gifted writer and artist,Cuthbert said.If you wanted to find one person to document what happened there, I dont think you could find a better person than Strother.

All events at the Wise Library on June 19 are open to the public.