Friday, September 25, 2009

CWL--- John Brown: An Abolitionist Taliban?

Today in Springfield Illinois an American Taliban was arrested beside van-sized bomb parked in front of a federal courthouse.

In David Reynolds' biography of John Brown, the author makes the point that African-American historians have always understood John Brown. It is white historians who see 1) a lunatic, 2) a Bible thumper, 3.) a sociopath 4.) a failure as a family provider, 5.) a psychopath, 6) a dope, 7.) an egomaniacal individual seeking martyrdom 8.) a character who has wandered out of a Flannery O'Connor short story and into history.

Even 150 years removed from the October 16-17 raid on U.S. arsenal at Harper Ferry, it is difficult to understand John Brown's character and motivations. He has always been an enigma to CWL. Currently scholarship is discarding stereotypes of John Brown. David Reynold's biography, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, Evan Carton's biography, Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America , Jon Stauffer's treatment of radical abolitionists, The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race have set the stereotypes of John Brown on their heels.

Take a glace at the Gilda Lehrman Center's October conference on John Brown the last week in October.

How I Wrote John Brown, Abolitionist: A Cultural Biography (David Reynolds)
The Word and the Life: John Brown as Reader

The Wind and the Whirlwind: Can Biography Explain John Brown?

From Armed Propaganda to Creative Suffering: John Brown and Traditions of Expressive Violence

'I'll be John Browned': Abolition in the Southern Imagination

John Brown and the Tradition of Attacking Slavery at the Source

Was John Brown a Terrorist?

John Brown and the Legacies of Violence

Considerations on the Rhetoric of Race War in the Antebellum South

The Harpers Ferry Historical Association and the Harpers Ferry National Park will host a three day event on the anniversary of the raid. At 10pm on October 16 2009, a group will leave the Kennedy Farm where Brown's band was ensconced for 90 days. From the Kennedy Farm marchers will walk the five miles to the arsenal site and its iconic fire engine house building.

In period clothing and with a lantern, CWL will be among the marchers and will be searching for that 'period rush' for which reenactors long. Possibly even a few others on the march may have 'the black heart of abolitionism' pulsing wildly in their chests.

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