It would have been as easy to drive a shadow into the centre of a block of granite as to force a pro-slavery falsehood into his brain or heart.

James Redpath

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Charlestown Jail Scene in "Prince of Players"

The IMDb website remembers the 1955 film production, "Prince of Players" as a

tragic and sentimental story that depicts the early career of the 19th century American actor, Edwin Booth with some mention of the events leading to the assassination of President Lincoln by Edwin's brother, John Wilkes Booth. In the film, Edwin's days in the spotlight dwindle shortly after his brother is caught and killed for assassinating Lincoln.

The film is largely based upon the life of Edwin Booth, and provides little dramatization of his brother's life, the infamous assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.  The screenplay for "Prince of Players" was based upon the popular (but apparently not annotated) historical narrative, Prince of Players: Edwin Booth (1953), by Eleanor Ruggles.   The film starred Richard Burton as Edwin Booth, John Derek as John Wilkes Booth, and Raymond Massey--famous for his portrayal of Lincoln and Brown in other films--as their tragic father and acting forebear, Junius Brutus Booth.  The film says little about the mounting crisis over slavery, but conveys sufficiently that Edwin was loyal to the Union, while his infamous brother became a bitter defender of the South.   The movie somewhat drags along because, mainly it's a story about a 19th century Shakespearean actor's career, his brief marriage to a wife who died in 1863, and how he overcame his personal demons as well as the shame brought upon the Booth family by his fanatical brother's assassination of Lincoln.  The film does not show or even mention that the real Edwin Booth actually saved Robert Lincoln, the eldest son of the President, from a near fatal accident at a train station in Jersey City, NJ, in 1864.  Nor does it give much detail about Edwin Booth's prestigious career in New York City, that lasted into the early 1890s.

Obviously, my interest in "Prince of Players" is the scene when Edwin Booth is urged to reach out to Wilkes Booth by their worried sister, Asia.  Without context, the film portrays the two concerned siblings in a stage coach, where Edwin stops in an unnamed town to find John.  The aberrant actor is portrayed in a bar, making some kind of a political speech about the necessity of Brown's hanging.   In the story, Edwin had excelled his ambitious brother in acting, while John Wilkes had found a new calling in political subversion.  The former, seeking to save his brother from political folly, thus offers John an opportunity to co-star with him on the London stage.  To this, John Wilkes Booth says, "I want to show you something," and leads his brother outside of the bar, where they can see the shadow of Brown pacing in jail cell through a barred window.  (In reality, the side of the jail faced a street, not a bar.)

John Wilkes:  "There he is, John Brown.  Look at him, Ned, pacing up and down his cell, dreaming of an army with banners that will come to rescue him.  But it is not coming." 
Edwin:  "Why do you hate him so, a man you have never known?" 
John Wilkes: "Hate him?  I don't hate him.  In his own way he is a great man.  But to destroy greatness is to partake of greatness.  Shakespeare knew that.  Remember, Ned, when he had Brutus say to Caesar, 'Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods'? Shakespeare never wrote drama like this.  John Brown will die tomorrow.  Not play acting at death, but to rise for the applause as the curtain falls.   Swing by his neck as the sun comes up in mortal anguish.  Listen to those voices--not supers [supernumeraries] in the wings, real men, whose voices are real.  That sound could fill this land with agony.   Ned, there must be more glory to life than bowing and smirking to an audience--more fame than a well spoken Hamlet.  There's a mortal drama beginning to be played out here that's worth a thousand Hamlets.  That's the stage to play upon, Ned.  The smell of life and blood in your nostrils.  Waiting for your cue until destiny speaks the line. . . ."
At this point, Booth is summoned back into the bar, and bids his brother farewell.

Of course the scene is fictional.  Not only did Edwin not meet his brother at Charlestown on the night before Brown's hanging (Thur., Dec. 1, 1859), but Booth had come to town under the auspices of a Richmond militia group and was in uniform.  Although he was hardly incognito, he was "acting" like a soldier in uniform.   Interestingly, however, Moss Hart's screenplay preserves something of the warped admiration that Booth later expressed for Brown.  Although the proslavery actor wanted the abolitionist to die, even risking his acting job to travel to Charlestown to observe the Old Man's death, he did feel Brown was admirable for his bravery.  Hart's script puts the words of "greatness" in Booth's mouth, insinuating that Booth's desire to destroy greatness would ultimately lead the actor to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

According to Ruggles' book, Booth’s sister, Asia, recalled that her brother John had witnessed the hanging of Brown and “felt a throb of anguish as he beheld the old eyes straining their anxious sight for the multitude he vainly thought would rise to rescue him.”  Asia later recalled that John Wilkes told her, “Brown was a brave old man; his heart must have broken when he felt himself deserted.” (Prince of Players: Edwin Booth, p. 119)   As David Reynolds has recently observed:
In a letter of December 1864, shortly after Lincoln was elected to a second term, Booth wrote bitterly of the president: “He is standing in the footprints of old John Brown, but no more fit to stand with that rugged old hero—Great God! No. John Brown was a man inspired, the grandest character of this century!” (Reynolds, "John Wilkes Booth and the Higher Law," The Atlantic, 15 Apr. 2015)
This is where Hart's screenplay insinuates his own view of Lincoln's greatness rather than reiterating Booth's actual sentiment.  As Reynolds would have us understand, Booth did not feel that being part of the deaths of both Brown and Lincoln was to "partake of greatness."  Quite in contrast to Brown, whom Booth recognized as fundamentally profound, the man who finally assassinated Lincoln thought his victim was coarse, vulgar, and disgraceful.

On the other hand, Booth himself misread Brown as having been disappointed in hope of rescue on the day of his hanging, and that he felt deserted.   Like so many other Virginians, Booth was fed propaganda about Brown--his supposed disappointment in the loyalty of local blacks and his last minute desire for rescue being two inventions of the Virginia press.  Neither was true--Brown was quite aware that local black people had shown great enthusiasm, and if he was disappointed in blacks, it was in the free black leadership of the North.  Nor was Brown hoping for rescue as he mounted the gallows (at eleven o'clock in the morning, not at sunrise as stated in the film).  To the contrary, if Brown entertained the possibility of being rescued, he did so only briefly at the onset of his capture. It quickly became clear that he would not be rescued, and he seized upon this hopeless situation with a surprising joy and contentment.  He consistently decried and refused any suggestion from visitors and allies of a rescue.  The man who stood on the gallows in Charlestown was actually quite calm, satisfied, and only looked upon the crowd with one stated regret: that the authorities had not permitted the general public to attend his execution.

In the end, "Prince of Players" at least put one profound truth into the mouth of John Derek's John Wilkes Booth: certainly Shakespeare never wrote drama like this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Anti-Brown "Union" Meetings, December 1859

In Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia, one theme that I have presented in the aftermath of the abolitionist's death is the often overlooked "Union Meetings" that took place in the North in December 1859.  These "Union Meetings" were essentially an expression of the conservative political element of the North, particularly fueled by the interests of capitalists and the propagandized working class men who supported them.
Cutaway from the "Grand Union Meeting" Program,
New York City, 17 Dec. 1859

At the heart of these meetings was economic self-interest, since slavery's stolen wealth flowed into the industrial North and energized the economy of great cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston among others.  Of course, these meetings were explicitly racist as well, since the political and economic interests of capitalism in this period were obviously tied to the continued oppression of black people under Southern bondage.
An artist for the NY Illustrated News captured
this image of the "Union Meeting" in New
York's Academy of Music, 17 Dec. 1859

Following Brown's death, Northern capitalists began to worry that the South would find its much desired excuse to secede from the Union, especially states like South Carolina and Virginia which had entertained secession for years.  Northern racism, well documented in Leon Litwack's fine book, North of Slavery, is a matter of history; but the "Union Meetings" were the fullest manifestation of the Northern white man's contempt for abolitionism, particularly focused on John Brown, and resentful of those antislavery voices that celebrated him as a martyr for freedom.

The first "Union Meeting" took place in Philadephia's Jayne Hall, referred to as the "Grand Union Mass Meeting," on Wednesday, December 7, only five days after Brown's hanging.  In this meeting, the white audience called for the hanging of abolitionist Wendell Phillips, and the enslaved black population were referred to as "savage hordes." The following day, December 8, another "Union Meeting" took place in Boston's Faneuil Hall, where disunion was loudly lamented and Brown's execution was applauded.

But perhaps the most notable gathering took place in New York City, on Monday evening, December 19, in Manhattan's notable Academy of Music.  New York's "Grand Union Meeting" filled the house to overflowing, and the turn out was so strong that smaller meetings spilled out onto the streets around Union Square and 14th Street.  In 1859, the Academy of Music was the largest opera house in the world, with its peculiar horseshoe shaped seating and gas lights.  Inside, a band played patriotic songs and Union messages were posted on great signs, along with flags of the USA.  Yet the majesty of the great throng, with its distinguished guests and martial music only thinly belied the sheer racism and selfish interests of the business community, which called for unity with the South.  At best, the various speakers appealed to the "pupilage" of the black man under the white man, and the necessity of allowing the South handle black slavery and emancipation in its own way.

Outside, burning torches and barrels lit the streets as speakers harangued Brown's memory and called for solidarity with the South.  With the city's dark streets now set ablaze with lights, fireworks lit the sky as people thronged to a number of platforms to hear the anti-Brown tirades.  Periodically, the cheers and huzzahs were punctuated with cannon fire, which startled horses and in some cases led to carriage accidents on Manhattan's busy streets.

An artist for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper captured this scene
outside of NY's Academy of Music during the "Great Union Meeting"
As Horace Greeley, the antislavery editor of the New York Tribune, concluded afterward, the "Great Union Meeting" movement was based "chiefly, to promote Southern trade, and, as a means to that end, to denounce the Republican party and uphold the Pro-Slavery party." Greeley observed, too, that nothing was said about the interests of free labor, nor the threat of slavery's expansion as upheld by proslavery Southern leaders.

The "Union Meetings" that took place in the Northeast were symptomatic of the racist and conservative political investment in slavery that is often overlooked when Southern slavery is discussed.  John Brown and his abolitionist contemporaries were well aware of the ties of greed and prejudice that bound the wealthy men of the North and South, and that the exploitation and oppression of black people by Southern slaveholders was supported by racist greed in the North.  As prisoner Brown told the reporter, Simpson Donavin, "The North and the South will each have to share in this suffering and sacrifice. Both are guilty. The North profited most in the inauguration of the infamy and has shared largely in the profits which have arisen from slave labor."

Almost before Brown could be lowered into his grave, the wealthy white interests of the North proved his words correct by these disgraceful "Union Meetings," supporting slavery and calling for a unity of blood and greed.  However, much to the disappointment of Northern capitalists, the Southern slaveholders understood their greed, and disdained them almost as much as they did abolitionists.

With the election of the first Republican President of the United States in 1861, the South cut off its Northern partners and declared itself a nation.  John Brown would not have been surprised at the bloodletting that followed.

If you're interested in the "Union Meetings," see Freedom's Dawn, Chapter 19--LD

Monday, July 06, 2015


The editor of the blog of the Franklin County Historical Society of Chambersburg, Pa., was kind enough to make mention of my two John Brown books in the notice below (27 Jun.)  However, the editor adds, "DeCaro is viewed by some as a controversial character," and then provides a link to this very blog, where my "opinions on current events" and my "defense of Brown" are to be found.   I'm used to seeing Brown referred to as controversial, but I guess defending him makes one by default controversial as well.  Of course, whoever the "some" may be who take me as controversial are welcome to their opinion.  Still, I do appreciate the Franklin County editor's notice.--LD

 Louis DeCaro, Jr. ‘s books Freedom’s Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia and John Brown Speaks: Letters and Statements from Charlestownhave been published by Rowman & Littlefield (; 1-800-462-6420) . The first is priced at $45.00 and the second at $60.00; however, the books can be purchased at reduced prices (Freedom’s Dawn $31.50; John Brown Speaks $42.00) until December 31, 2015 by using the Promo Code 4S15DECARO. Freedom’s Dawn examines the rise of John Brown’s legacy andJohn Brown Speaks is a collection of Brown’s writings after his capture at Harpers Ferry. DeCaro is viewed by some as a controversial character; his opinions on current events and his defense of Brown are reflected in his blog

Monday, June 22, 2015

White Supremacy Speaks--
Brown Called "Homicidal Maniac" on Anti-Immigrant Website, Compared to Dylann Roof by Dissident Right-Winger

Following the racist killing spree of Dylann Roof in Charleston last week,  John Derbyshire--who identifies himself as "a novelist, pop-math author, reviewer, and opinion journalist" on his own website, has taken to opining about John Brown on the blog of an organization called V-DARE. Derbyshire apparently Tweets @ "DissidentRight," so you can pretty much guess where this is going. Derbyshire, whose website images resemble a mug shot, has contributed to the National Review, has written numerous articles and published six works of fiction and "pessimistic conservative" writing, and even has his own podcast, "Radio Derb."
Dissident Right-Winger John Derbyshire
has compared Dylann Roof to John Brown

The V-DARE organization, upon whose blog Derbyshire has opined, evidently draws its name from the story of Virginia Dare, the first North American born white settler (b. 1587).  Dare and her mother were among a British colony on Roanoke Island, off of the North Carolina Coast, often referred to as "The Lost Colony" after all of its residents were discovered missing without explanation in 1590.  Legends grew up about Dare, including a myth that a Native medicine man had transformed her into a "white doe."  Of course, it is more likely that she was taken and subsumed within a native community.  And therein lies the significance of V-DARE, whose editor, Peter Brimelow, is the author of Alien Nation: Common Sense about America's Immigration Disaster.  V-DARE is an alternative, not mainstream, conservative website for white people who advocate "patriot immigration reform and the voice of the historic American nation."   V-DARE wants to push back against "pro-amnesty" policies toward immigrants and advocates "your principles"--meaning, I assume, the fanatical prejudices of white racists and xenophobes.

As far as the racist murders in Charleston, Brimelow wrote on the V-DARE website that he appreciated how the writers on V-DARE were waiting "to see what actually happened."  According to one of his contributors, in fact, what "really happened" was that the killer Dylann Roof was driven to this extremist crime by the abuses of the liberals, who just talk too much about white privilege and the Trayvon Martin case.  Poor little armed brat.  He was driven to shooting nine black people in a church because of liberal propaganda.

To such opinions, our Long Island conservative commentator, Mr. Derbyshire, added his two cents the other day, writing on the V-DARE blog (Jun. 21), under the title, "John Brown, An Earlier Homicidal Maniac Who Wanted 'To Start a Civil War.'"

John Brown was an ardent abolitionist.  He was also, like Dylann Roof, a homicidal maniac.  That latter fact does not invalidate abolitionism.  Was Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party responsible for John Brown’s crimes? 
Crazy people can believe non-crazy things.  I bet Charlie Manson believes that 2+2=4, that Tuesday comes between Monday and Wednesday, that water will wet us and fire will burn, etc.  You can’t function in the world at all unless a majority of your beliefs are true. 
As my Marxist friends used to tell me back in Cold War days, when I pointed out the horrors of Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, etc.: “An idea is not responsible for all the people who hold it.” 
John Brown is a fascinating figure, as lunatics go.   I re-acquainted myself with him earlier this month at Harper’s Ferry. . . .  Prior to that I knew him mainly from George MacDonald Fraser’s, Flashman and the Angel of the Lord.
"The Derb" apparently is not so much of a right-winger that he believes in restoring slavery, and he apparently thinks Abraham Lincoln was the hero of the antislavery cause, which is a typical brain fart among Republicans and conservatives.  The point of these remarks appear to be that even though Brown was right about slavery, he was still crazy and homicidal--the antislavery idea not being responsible for the men like Brown who embraced it, along with the good conservatives like Lincoln, who had to be dragged into doing anything about slavery.

It is obvious enough that whatever else Mr. Derbyshire knows (and I have no doubt that he knows a lot of stuff), by his own admission, he knows nothing about John Brown except what he apparently learned from those questionable "authorities" who work for the National Park Service at Harper's Ferry.  Besides that, "The Derb" has read the essential book on John Brown--a piece of fiction by MacDonald Fraser.  Laugh out loud.

It is no surprise that the Derbyshires and Coulters of this world dismiss John Brown.  They are as out of touch with the antebellum and antislavery history of this nation as they are from the oppressed and marginalized of this nation.  Great minds think alike, and apparently so do prejudiced ones.  Yet, it is ultimately befitting that Brown's enemies and critics can be found in association with such views, especially the kind espoused by white reactionaries and bigots on V-DARE--the kind of people that build their politics on racial prejudice, and then rationalize a discourse after the fact from their own darkened hearts and minds.

More immediately, Mr. Derbyshire is simply misinformed and ignorant.  Comparing Brown to the depraved and malicious Roof, who showed himself like some malignant KKK afterbirth, capable of murdering Christian black people in church, is beyond ridiculous.  The comparison has no substance, except in the godless mind of an aging dissident leftover from the golden age of "America"--you know, the good old days, when white people called themselves "Native Americans" and killed the real ones, while cursing immigrants and debating whether blacks had sufficient intelligence to live apart from their kind tutelage.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Extra, Extra!
Freedom's Dawn Published this Month

I'm happy to announce that Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia will be released this month.  Readers can download a discount flyer pdf by clicking on this link.  The two-page flyer features an order form that you may use to get a 30% discount from the publisher's price for both Freedom's Dawn and its forthcoming companion volume (due out in August), John  Brown Speaks: Letters and Statements from Charlestown.  You're also invited to visit the Freedom's Dawn Facebook page to get a preview of the cover.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Point of Clarity--
The Historical Values of this Nation, not John Brown's Legacy, Are "Complicated" 

In the weeks following the 215th birthday celebration of John Brown, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (12 May 2015), a newspaper published in the vicinity of the abolitionist's farm and gravesite, featured an insert soliciting reader responses.  The "web poll" states that Brown "left a complicated legacy when he was hanged in 1859," and then asked readers if "on the whole," they were "in favor of what he did."  This is a point I've addressed on this blog before, and one which I recently discussed in my brief presentation at the birthday celebration in Lake Placid as a guest of the organization, John Brown Lives!

The notion that Brown was a "complex" man, or that his legacy is "complicated" has no real substance for any one who is willing to tell the truth about the history of slavery and the United States.  Indeed, what is "complicated" is the way in which white society has treated slavery.

The facts are that this nation was built on chattel slavery, that both the North and South grew rich on stolen black labor, and the constitution of our nation contained with it the provision for this gross injustice.  The facts are that the vast majority of whites in the "free states" were indifferent to the human rights of enslaved people, and that a dense culture of racism formed throughout white society as a result of black chattel slavery.  The facts are that even a majority of people who claimed to be "anti-slavery" were against the brutal system in theory, but were far more willing to tolerate it rather than see the nation split over it.  Black people never had but very few actual allies among the whites, and the only reason why slavery was ended was because the South was so determined to pull out of the Union, and the North was in large part unwilling to let the South, its profits, and the Union be taken away by the slave holders' rebellion.  The facts are that many whites did not oppose slavery until it became clear that the Civil War had to resolve the issue of slavery once and for all, and it was only the circumstances of the war that finally drove white society to resolve the defeat of the South and the end of chattel slavery.

This 1865 image mocks the defeated rebel leader,
Jefferson Davis (in female attire).  Although Davis
was not Brown's "hangman," the artist understood
that it was the nascent spirit of the Confederacy
that had executed Brown in 1859
(Library of Congress image)
Yet having defeated the rebels, the North shortly reinstated the rebels, allowed many of them to run for and take public office, and exacted no political penalty from them for the rebellion.  The rebel leader, Jefferson Davis, served but a short time in jail and was freed.  Only one so-called Confederate officer was hanged, and that was because of his criminal role in the case of the hellish Andersonville Prison, were many Union soldiers died cruel deaths.  Not only were former rebels allowed to rejoin the Union with but a mere slap on the wrist, but within a decade of the end of the war, blacks were essentially sold back into the power of white supremacy in the South and the long reign of terror, the Klan, and the rise of Jim Crow all came forth because of the "complicated" nature of white society in regard to black people.

These are not popular words, but they should be written because the notion that John Brown was complicated is such a farce, a kind of straw man that some whites continually raise up and knock down for reasons that can only speak to the need to further evade the truth--whether or not they even realize it.  People are not stupid, so the fact that they never arrive at the plain facts of history suggest a problem of the heart more than the intellect.

When was John Brown ever complex, and where is his legacy "complicated"?  Brown was always for human rights, always against slavery, always for black equality, always against slavery's brutality, always ready to fight slavery's terrorists, always trying to find a way to destabilize and undermine the "arrant whore" of chattel slavery.   Where is the "complicated" nature of his legacy?  Is it his minimal resort to violence?  Why is this so complicated for a  nation of white people who glorify violence in their history of domestic and foreign wars?  Is his belief in the Christian gospel "complicated" because he was no pacifist?  But the vast majority of self-professing Christians in this nation have never been pacifist, and the vast majority of Christians in this nation have condoned wars and military actions that resulted in far worse atrocities than Brown ever accomplished in killing five proslavery thugs.

Why is the legacy of Brown so "complicated"?   The answer is that it is not.  The answer is that the legacy of the United States--born as a slaveholding democracy--was a walking contradiction from the start.  Where in the world can one find people like Thomas Jefferson--full of the ideas of liberty, freedom, and equality, a "liberal" in the classical sense, and yet also a racist and slave holder?  Is that not "complicated"?   The same applies to George Washington and so many others.   What of Lincoln, no slave holder to be sure, but one quite willing to subordinate the rights of blacks to the priorities of white society.  Why do we not hear of Lincoln's "complicated" legacy?  Why is it that the man with the most single-minded commitment to ending slavery and promoting human rights is branded "complicated"?

The answer is because the public mind of this nation has yet to come to terms with its own nation's guilty history, the hypocrisies and inconsistencies of its national heroes and founders, and the flawed and failing manner in which it has repeatedly dealt with the rights of minorities.  To the lying mind, truth is always "complicated," while the liar finds comfort in the entangled half-truths and deceptions of its own making.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise is asking the wrong question in its "web poll."  The question the editor of that paper should be asking is, "Was John Brown right in trying to arm enslaved people to win their freedom?"  I would not be surprised, of course, that many would respond in the negative. After all, this is the United States, a complicated place.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

More from the North Country--
PBS Report by Derek Muirden--Your Editor Interviewed; the Bogus Claim of HF's Seized Weapons

Derek Muirden of the Mountain Lake (NY) affiliate of PBS was on the ground at the John Brown Farm on John Brown Day last week, and kindly included an interview with me in his report.  The video is posted below--just look for the guy referred to as "Louie."  I should add, for the sake of clarity, that while I appreciate Mr. Muirden's fine report, I do not agree that Brown intended to seize the guns from the Harper's Ferry armory.  I cannot blame him, because this is one of those hackneyed claims that has adhered to the raid narrative since 1859. I take up this false claim in my forthcoming Freedom's Dawn.  

To the contrary, guns were not taken from the arsenal, but it seems rather that they were guarded to prevent others from getting to them.  Brown afterward clearly stated that he did not want the arsenal weapons because he brought superior firearms with him to Harper's Ferry, the Sharp's repeating rifles were five-times as effective.  The seizing of the armory was purely a political demonstration (he said so) and the reason for it is likewise provided in my forthcoming book.  
If Brown were trying to seize the arsenal weapons, where were the wagons to load them?  Where is the evidence that he took these rifles when he had ample opportunity to do so? The answer is no evidence exists of the kind.
In reality, the notion that the arms were to be seized for the slaves comes from sensationalist, propagandistic claims made by proslavery reporters.  These false claims bolstered Sen. James Mason's mission to use his 1860 senatorial committee investigation to impugn Brown and exploit the raid in order to interrogate and ensnare antislavery leaders in the North.   It is a point of history that besides Brown's sheer denial that he was interested in the arsenal stores, none of the Harper's Ferry weapons were removed and loaded throughout the entire, extended occupation of the Ferry by Brown and his men.  One wagon was brought into the Ferry by Brown, but it was already loaded with Brown's supplies.  If he were trying to seize the arsenal weapons, where were the wagons to load them?  Where is the evidence that he took these rifles when he had ample opportunity to do so?  The answer is no evidence exists of the kind.  Indeed, the only valid testimony to be believed is that a couple of Brown's men opened a couple of cases and looked at the rifles--so did Brown invade Harper's Ferry to seize two cases of rifles?   The facts are plain enough if you can get beyond the hackneyed press reports from the proslavery side, which unfortunately many historians have not discerned.

You can also read more about the John Brown Lives! event in a report by my friend, Naj Wikoff, in Thursday's (14 May) Lake Placid News.   Naj also provides an excerpt from my succinct presentation, as follows:
Certainly John Brown, as the single-minded man on the right side of history, who has been dismissed time and time again, keeps coming back. Why? Because you can't bury the truth, because his life was not a life of reinvention, because if you study his life you see that he is really the same man throughout. He did not believe slavery would be uprooted simply by moral suasion. John Brown saw that every road to ending slavery was blocked by power. He felt it had become something that had to be resisted. 
The government was on the side of the slaveholder. There was no hope for peaceful emancipation. There was only one man in 1859 who took action, and that was John Brown. He is significant to us because he really represents the ideas and principles that we say we believe in, but often times we as a nation to this day continue to have a double standard and a mythology about what our country is. John Brown does not allow that mythology to exist. He demands that we revisit the history of our country and tell the truth.
Lastly, for the record, Mr. Muirden's closing quote of Bruce Olds fairly well illustrates the most extreme anti-Brown view in contemporary culture.   However, Olds is not to be taken seriously in and of himself as a narrator of Brown's life, not even in fictional terms. Like many novelists who tamper with historical figures, he screws up royally.  But unlike novelists such as Russell Banks, Olds lacks even a basic sense of fairness, rationalizes his putrid narrative in the name of postmodernism, and is really a character assassin.  Only the malignant fringe of Brown haters would take the work of Bruce Olds seriously, and despite its association with postmodernity, Olds' novel represents one of the last cries of the defeated view of Brown that reigned throughout most of the 20th century.