"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Had I Interfered On Behalf of the Rich": John Brown's Final Speech--A Tribute and a Contemporary Application

December 2nd has passed and--quite without notice for the most part--so has public recognition of the 147th anniversary of Brown's hanging by the State of Virginia in 1859. In remembrance of Brown's life and service to the cause of human liberation and the authentic religion of Jesus Christ, I am reproducing the transcript of his speech before the court that convicted him of "treason, and conspiring and advising with slaves and others to rebel, and murder in the first degree." The verdict was pronounced on Monday, October 30, though sentence was not pronounced until Wednesday, November 1.

I have, may it please the court, a few words to say. In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted -- the design on my part to free slaves. I intended certainly to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter when I went into Missouri and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moving them through the country, and finally leaving them in Canada. I designed to have done the same thing again on a larger scale. That was all I intended to do. I never did intend murder or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite the slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection. I have another objection; and that is that it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved--for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case--had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment. This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them." I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, is not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say let it be done. Let me say one word further. I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my trial. Considering all the circumstances, it has been more generous than I expected. But I feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated that from the first what was my intention and what was not. I never had any design against the liberty of any person, nor any disposition to commit treason, or excite slaves to rebel, or make any general insurrection. I never encouraged any man to do so, but always discouraged any idea of that kind. Let me say also in regard to the statements made by some of those connected who were connected with me, I fear it has been stated by some of them that I have induced them to join me, but the contrary is true. I do not say this to injure them, but as regretting their weakness. Not one but joined me of his own accord, and the greater part at their own expense. A number of them I never saw, and never had a word of conversation with till the day they came to me, and that was for the purpose I have stated. Now I am done.1

After speaking these words, Brown was sentenced to be hanged on December 2, 1859.
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1Transcript of Brown's speech taken from The Life, Trial and Execution of Captain John Brown (New York: Robert M. DeWitt Publishers, 1859), 94-95. This anonymously published collection of materials has been attributed to James Redpath, an associate and biographer of Brown.

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John Brown made a keen observation about the nature of "justice" in U.S. society, namely that the poor and oppressed constantly face a double standard. The rich and powerful see "law and order" as positive words, as the protection of their interests and the guarantee that the courts and constabularies will always protect their agendas and even provide escape for them from prosecution when they break the law. In contrast, people of color know that "law and order" means that they are forever at the disadvantage--especially at the hands of police and in the courts. Just recently we have seen yet another outrageous shooting of three unarmed black men in Queens, New York, one of whom perished in a hail of fifty bullets.

So despite the abolition of slavery, the guiding interests of wealth and race continue to drive this nation and while it is unpopular to say, the spirit of John Brown still broods over this nation, along with the souls of the oppressed, who watch this pretend democracy march onward into the 21st century without yet repenting of its guilt--which is in part why men like Brown will never be widely accepted or memorialized in this United States. "I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons," Brown told the court in 1859. In 2006, at the age of 206, his living soul is yet too young to grasp the ancient inequities that rule this nation. Justice-loving people like Brown could live 1000 years and never understand or live peacefully with the injustice that too many other Americans are content to live with from generation to generation.

In keeping with Brown's living legacy, then, I am pleased to present the insightful thoughts of Ezra Aharone, who would also speak to the issue of the great American plutocracy. His words speak to the present, not the past, and although the following essay is not directly related to John Brown, it is entirely consistent with the spirit of the man who was hanged on December 2, 1859 for laying his ax into the roots of a corrupt and unjust nation. --LD


Voting for White Multimillionaires


by Ezrah Aharone


To rousing applause, Bill Clinton remarked at Ossie Davis’ funeral that Davis: “Would have been a very good President of the United States.” Although he “would have,” the question is “could he have” been president? Despite this worthy praise of Davis, the record shows Black men are routinely shutout from winning high-elected offices of governors and senators – So forget about “president.” Just ask Jesse Jackson or Kweisi Mfume or Al Sharpton or Lynn Swann or Michael Steele to name a few. If 50 of the most prominent Black people were glued together, they wouldn’t comprise a candidate worthy enough for Euro-Americans to elect to the White House.


On Chris Matthews’ Decision 2006: Battleground America, an all-White panel discussed what they defined as “A hidden vote against African Americans.” Translation: “Whites who rah-rah-rah in popular public support for Black candidates, like Harold Ford Jr., but secretly vote for White candidates instead.” They represent a very real, but largely unacknowledged segment of Whites, who are psychologically incapable of voting Black people (regardless of qualifications) into high-elected offices. Nevertheless, Black America is not in short supply of intelligent and fully capable men and women who should be, and probably would be, elected to such offices – If they were the right color and class.

Former Governor of New Jersey, Richard Codey, called the U.S. Senate a “Club of multimillionaires.” More specifically however, it is a “Euro-American club of multimillionaires.” Those who are not, certainly have future options to rake-in multimillions. While in office they sit on key committees and enact favorable legislation for corporate interests, which ultimately lead to cushy jobs and corporate board appointments that guarantee them multimillions when they leave.

A thriving “Plutocratic Culture” exists between Blue-chip corporations and Blue-blooded Euro-Americans, where hundreds of millions of dollars change hands annually that impact campaigns, candidates, and election outcomes. America is a “Pay-to-Play Democracy” where members of this culture commonly hedge their odds by making hefty donations to both parties and both candidates in elections.


Plutocrats do not make generous contributions because of patriotism or kind-heartedness. They do so in exchange for political favoritism and privileges, and to influence policies that safeguard and advance their interests. When they sip champagne and eat caviar while attending black-tie fundraisers for $10,000 a plate, they do not discuss solutions to the proliferation of handguns and homicides in Black communities. They discuss issues that fatten their corporate coffers, like oil and natural gas reserves; the FED and interest rates; FDA approval of new drugs; genetically modified agriculture; and defense contracts.

Long before you supposedly “make your voice heard” on Election Tuesdays, a more authoritative voice has already spoken. … The dollars and support from this culture pre-select and pre-determine who is, and who isn’t, a viable candidate. Once you trace the major funding sources of a viable presidential, gubernatorial, or senatorial candidate, you can then largely pinpoint the issues/causes they’ll be pre-obligated to support while in office – Yet, voting is hyped and hailed as an instrument that makes American democracy so pristine and honorable.

Because of Black America’s long history of being forcibly denied the right to vote, we understandably attach great value and have deep reverence for the people and events that made voting possible. Even though we possess the right to vote and the right to run for offices, the contrived political engineering to fund and support select Euro-Americans, works like a well-oiled machine to systematically eliminate otherwise qualified Black candidates.

This does not however deter certain Black people from loading their pockets with “payoff” money from the very same political and corporate coffers that knowingly thwart their political rise. Realizing fully-well that they can never become a senator or governor, they cash-in as “party consultants” whose job is to endorse and campaign for White multimillionaires to increase Black voter turnout. This adds expanded dimensions to the act of “Pawned Sovereignty.” If there was such a crime as “political prostitution” some Blacks would be doing “life without parole.”

The new “political fad” nowadays is for Black people to be seen on television “grinning” at press conferences, while standing behind White multimillionaires who win elections. Since Black people in recent times couldn’t even enter the building where such press events were held, their presence presumably coveys a public showing of equality and inclusion, when in fact, there’s only been just 2 Black governors in all of history (Duval Patrick included); just 3 Black senators since reconstruction; and never more than 10 percent of Blacks in the House.

This constitutes a sophisticated modern-day form of repression, disguised in the notion that voting (for pre-selected White multimillionaires) somehow symbolizes freedom and equality. If the disproportionate numbers above exemplify political equality – What numbers would exemplify a case of inequality?

Two similarities in U.S. history standout. When Euro-Americans faced “Taxation without Representation,” they deemed it insufferable and eventually declared war against their British blood-relatives. When slaveholders lacked political representation, the infamous Three-Fifth Clause was enacted to count every 5 slaves in the census as 3 free people, thereby padding the population to increase the number of Congressmen in the South. Both objectives, by the way, were achieved at the expense and inhumanity of Black lives.


Some might contend that “we are all Americans,” and therefore, the color and multimillionaire status of candidates “do not matter.” But in any case, Black America is still underrepresented in high-elected offices when in reality we should rightfully have our own government and make sovereign decisions for ourselves. Therefore, to some of us “it does matter.” Especially during these chaotic political times, as the U.S. government’s protracted legacy of decimating people and cultures now extends into Iraq. So the next time you’re waiting in line to vote the next White multimillionaire into office, make sure you ask yourself – Does it matter?


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Copyright © 2006 Ezrah Aharone


Ezrah Aharone is a Scholar of Sovereign Studies and the author of Pawned Sovereignty: Sharpened Black Perspectives on Americanization, Africa, War and Reparations, http://www.1stbooks.com/bookview/18126. He can be reached at EzrahAharone@juno.com.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Harper's Ferry and the Alamo: An Exchange Between Jean Libby & Yours Truly

In regard to an article I published and distributed in commemoration of the 147th anniversary of the Harper's Ferry raid, my friend and colleague, Jean Libby, issued a critique and corrective. Standing my ground at some points, and standing to be corrected at others, I am grateful nevertheless for her feedback. The original article is published in this blog under date of October 18, 2006. Below the reader will find Jean's response and then my final response.

Jean Libby writes:

Dr. DeCaro concludes: "How one views the Alamo and Harper's Ferry is not a matter of historical trivia. It is a barometer of one's sense of justice in history and probably in the contemporary sense as well."

I have been asked by a correspondent whether or not I agree with it. Even though I think Lou Decaro is an outstanding scholar, and I am personally praised in this piece, and on his excellent blogsite of issues and news items about John Brown, my answer is "No." The reason for my disagreement is not Lou's depiction of the John Brown raid. Although I have some disagreement with his Seven Points (especially that of the reason for Brown's delay in leaving Harpers Ferry), those can be dismissed as historians' quibbles.

My problem is (1) that I remember the Alamo differently than Louis A. DeCaro and (2) I also have a fundamental difference in analysis of the participation of Dangerfield Newby as "self-interested" in comparison with the other members of Brown's army because he was seeking to free his family.



The Alamo: although iconographic in U.S. History, the siege of the Alamo took place in 1836, nine years before the entry of Texas as a slave state into the United States and the Mexican-American War. To say that Texas was an "anti-slavery state" before the battle of the Alamo and the implication that this was part of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 is a distortion. Tejas was a province of Mexico following the Revolution of 1821 which overthrew Spain, a slave country. One of the high marks of the Mexican Revolution was the abolition of slavery. Slavery does not overturn in a day, not where it has been entrenched for over 400 years (longer than in the U.S.) and in a huge and diverse area that was virtually ungovernable. The Mexican Revolution turned on itself and assassination and intrigue was the rule instead of law. The Constitution of 1824 was negated by 1836 and a new one substituted. This totalitarian had taken power (Generalissimo Santa Anna) and declared himself president for life. In his earlier career he had brutally policed the Indians and assisted in the capture of Hidalgo, the Father of Mexico who was subsequently executed. Santa Anna changed sides at the end of the Revolution to support Iturbe. To say that "Mexico justly suppressed these proto-Texans at the Alamo" is like saying President Bush is defending democracy. It just isn't true.

Dangerfield Newby and Shields Green: this response is to the statement that "there was no self-interest in the group, except for Dangerfield Newby, who was fighting in the hopes of freeing his enslaved wife and family." Shields Green, who was with Frederick Douglass and John Brown when Douglass described Harpers Ferry as "a perfect steel trap" decided to "go with the old man" when Douglass wisely refused to participate in the kidnapping of hostages and attack on federal property. Shields Green, a fugitive, also had a wife and child who were still enslaved.

Carl Westmoreland of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center wrote to me in 2001 that what is important in African American thinking about John Brown is that he truly believed in racial equality, and this was without patronization. I think it is certain that Dangerfield Newby was participating in the raid on abolition grounds as much as the others. Scholar Ian Barford has found evidence, which he shared with this group, that Newby was in Ashtabula when he was recruited by Brown, not in Bridgeport, in southeastern Ohio. From handwritten notes in the carpetbag letters found at the Kennedy Farm and used as evidence in the trials of John Brown and the surviving raiders, both Dangerfield and his brother Gabrie were part of the Underground Railroad and that is how they found out about the Ashtabula center of abolition activity. They went there to join the plan, and Gabriel may have been on his way to Virginia on August 27, 1859.

Shields Green, the forgotten man (whose actual name was Esau Brown) was assigned the role intended for Frederick Douglass in notifying the local black population of the liberation movement on the night of October 16. He went with Charles Tidd, one of the whites who had misgivings about the soundness of the plan to take the armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Tidd went back to Maryland after cutting telegraph wires outside Charles Town and Green went south to Wheatland, the farm of George Turner (later killed by Dangerfield Newby in the fighting) and back along the new macadam road by the Shenandoah River to the Rifle Works with at least three slave recruits. At least two were killed; all three are listed as fugitive in the census of 1860, when George Turner is dead. Shields/Esau had the opportunity to stay with the outside positions, according to Osborne Anderson's account. But he risked fire to go back into the enginehouse to fight alongside Brown and his sons and related Thompson brothers. It is Osborne Anderson who tells us that Green has said ”twice”that he will stay with John Brown. The John Brown story with these words by Green is not published by Douglass until his last autobiography. Henry Organ has written of this in John Brown Mysteries. Every year on December 16 Henry writes to me to remember the execution of Shields Green two weeks after that of John Brown.

Both Newby and Green, I believe along with Carl Westmoreland and Henry Organ, are revolutionary thinkers and planners with Brown, whom he trusts and they do not let him down. If Newby were there for self-interest, he would not be placed in the most vulnerable position, he would have taken off for Warrenton when the town was secured.

Louis A. DeCaro is generous with praise about the work of Hannah N. Geffert and myself on regional black involvement in the John Brown raid that is recently in Prophets of Protest edited by Timothy Patrick McCarthy and John Stauffer and published by The New Press (2006). It has taken thirty years for this concept of black participation first articulated by Osborne Anderson "who saw it”and by W.E.B. Du Bois, who believed him. Lou DeCaro has written of this fundamental belief by Du Bois in comparison with Oswald Garrison Villard, who defends the white raiders as "fine American boys" but calls the black man a liar.

I know that it is very ungrateful of me to remember the Alamo in a different way than an example of white supremacy, and the Mexican government as one of justice. I am sorry, but I must.

Jean Libby

* * *
Dear Jean:

Thank you for your thoughtful criticism of my "Seven Points" concerning the 147th anniversary of the Harper's Ferry raid. With respect to the Alamo, I realize that I stepped into a quagmire of historical debate and that I am not a scholar of that theme or region. However let me continue to speak from a level of simplicity, which is where I tend to live most of the time (smile).

1. I never suggested that Santa Anna and the Mexican government as it was in 1836 was morally upstanding or otherwise representative of "the good guys." Nor was I defending the regime then in control of Mexico per se. My argument, however, is based upon the issue of American hypocrisy, and in that sense I would argue that my point remains substantially true.

The American male leadership that perished at the Alamo represented pro-slavery interests and envisioned expanding new frontiers for slavery. They had other goals and interests to be sure. They also had their "redeeming qualities" too. However, with all due respect, none of the facts concerning Mexico's regime under Santa Anna negate the essential American hypocrisy that I intended to highlight. The Alamo--for the slave power in the U.S.--represented the hopeful advancement of slave territory. This is why I celebrate the suppression of the "Alamo movement" (if you will) and disdain what it represents in the popular mindset of our nation. John Brown opposed the war with Mexico from the American side, precisely because he recognized the ambition of the pro-slavery side moving within American foreign policy. I am sorry Jean, but while I would assent that the Alamo must be portrayed responsibly with historical accuracy in detail, your apparent denial that the Alamo does not represent white supremacy seems to evade the point.

The fact of white supremacy in the expansion of North American interests throughout history does not deny other aspects, including good ones. From your vantage point, I suppose we could argue that the Alamo patriots were fighting to bring democracy to a society held captive by a totalitarian general. But does this change the fact that these same Alamo patriots would happily have subjected Africans to chattel slavery had they gotten their way? Did not their immediate heirs do so? In principal we're talking about the larger story of our nation, of course, and if it was wrong for our nation to found a republic based on slave labor, then it was wrong for the proto-Texans to think to do the same. So I would respectfully stand my ground on this point. The fall of the Alamo, like the defeat of the Confederacy, was a good thing, even if the victors themselves were less than noble. The failure of John Brown at Harper's Ferry was a tragedy, especially because he came so close to launching the most authentic and morally justifiable freedom movement in our nation's history--even more justifiable than the American Revolution (which I personally question from a moral standpoint, although the Old Man would disagree with me).

2. As to the Harper's Ferry raiders, I thank you for scoring me on my careless phrasing and historical inaccuracy. I indeed forgot (heaven forbid) that Shields Green had also left family behind when he escaped. However the point I was trying to make, however poorly, was that apart from Newby (and Green), these noble young men who comprised Brown's little army were there on principle and stood to gain nothing personally, from their struggle--in contrast to the white American males who died at the Alamo. NOR did I suggest, or mean to suggest, that Newby and Green were not abolitionists by principle. I assumed they were. Again, my point was poorly made, which was simply that most of these marvelous young men had nothing to gain and everything to lose, and that they are to be admired as the greatest Americans rather than dismissed and condemned while Jim Bowie and his kind are glorified in American memory.

Jean, I think our difference is one of letter not spirit. We are working together on John Brown documentation and in opposing the fundamental lack of fairness and truthfulness among conventional scholarship with respect to John Brown. We are claiming the 21st century for John Brown and our numbers are growing across lines of political and ideological perspective. I salute you not only for your scholarly achievements and expertise as the foremost Brown documentary scholar (perhaps second only to the late Boyd Stutler), but also your generosity of spirit. You have become so much a part of the John Brown study that I cannot even imagine it without you . . . . I remain

Your friend in truth,

Lou DeCaro Jr.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Carnegie Mellon University Forum on John Brown’s Relevance to the Contemporary Struggle for Justice Featured by the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center

On October 2, 2006, the Activities Board of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa., featured a forum entitled, "In the Shadow of John Brown: Toward a Renewed Interracial Radicalism." The free presentation was held at 8 p.m., at Baker Hall on campus and featured appearances by long-time activist Staughton Lynd, and the recorded presentation of the renowned deathrow journalist and social critic, Mumia Abu-Jamal. In addition, veteran civil rights activist and scholar, Vincent Harding, made impromptu remarks. The program was introduced and moderated by Prof. Johanna Fernandez, Visiting Professor of History at CMU and co-director of the Oral History Project of Black Pittsburgh. According to the Indepdent Media Center’s website, the event "was well-attended by a racially diverse, multi-generational crowd of college and high school students, local activists, and other Pittsburgh community members."

Not Quite Right, Professor

Fernandez, who identified herself as a professor of 20th century history specializing in the civil rights era, made substantial introductory remarks with respect to Brown, although she made the standard academic error of portraying the abolitionist as intent on launching a slave insurrection –something that Brown categorically denied and which he firmly avoided in his planning of his movement. Fernandez likewise erred in following the conventional notion that Brown did not properly inform the enslaved community of his efforts. Despite her sympathetic reading of Brown’s story, Fernandez’s errors reflect how the “objective” record of John Brown, and the history of the Harper’s Ferry raid in particular, have been heavily influenced by long-standing bias and error. (Having consulted Osborne Anderson’s narrative of the raid, Mumia did not make the same mistakes in his presentation.)

Brown, Not an Insurrectionist

Brown believed that some measure of force would be necessary to undermine slavery, but he could not condone insurrection or uprisings because they invariably resulted in wholesale fighting and slaughter, such as took place in the Nat Turner revolt a generation before the Harper’s Ferry raid. While Brown argued that slavery was a state of war and black people had a right to fight for their self-defense, he never extended that right beyond the point of arming fugitives in their effort to escape and to aid others from escaping from slavery as well. At no time did Brown prescribe or design an insurrectionary movement in which enslaved people would rise up and kill masters and heirs (many of the slave masters killed by Turner’s men were children, at least one was an infant). His goal was to syphon slaves from plantations and farms, drawing increasing numbers of them into a geographically expansive maroon movement with the goal of creating economic instability--not armed insurrection--in the South.

A Voice from the Civil Rights Era

The primary speaker making a live presentation was Staughton Lynd, from Youngstown, Ohio, noted as "a lifelong activist who directed the Mississippi Freedom Schools Project for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1964; organized against the Vietnam war; acted as a legal advocate for workers, and has written extensively on community organizing, labor issues, and pacifism." Lynd’s remarks vis-a-vis the Civil Rights movement were interesting, particularly in noting that in both the Harper’s Ferry Raid of 1859 and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, white and blacks struggled and died together for the cause of black freedom. Lynd’s focus was largely philosophical, his main concern being what implications history has for the future of any movement for justice.

His opening premise was that blacks and whites had become polarized in the 1960s as a result of the Black Power movement, the idea being that whites and blacks should work in their respective communities until they were better prepared to cooperate in equality-based alliances. However, Lynd reminded the audience, that was a now over forty years ago, and activists working for justice have yet to figure out how to reintegrate into a single movement across lines of color. (Of course, this assumes that white liberals are by and large socially mature enough to collaborate with blacks on equal terms, just as it assumes that blacks trust whites enough to collaborate with them in any significant measure.)

Lynd: Another Villard Finds Fault with Brown

With respect to John Brown, Lynd contended that, despite his redeeming qualities as an ally of black struggle, Brown is not a good model for future justice movements because of his use of violence in Kansas in 1856. It is no surprise that Lynd would raise the theme of the Pottawatomie killings. The role of the Browns in killing five pro-slavery terrorists is usually the "fly in the ointment" for Brown’s legacy, particularly among white critics, many of whom just cannot seem to contextualize, let alone forgive, the Browns’ motivation for the killings. Clearly this is true of activists like Lynd, who has a long and admirable history of devotion to non-violent activism. Like Brown’s cynical 20th century biographer Oswald Garrison Villard, those who advocate pacifist/non-violent political action are inevitably condescending in judgment of Brown for his do-or-die violence in Kansas. We cannot help but imagine that the liberal Villards and Lynds of this world would prefer that Brown, his sons, and their families would have allowed themselves to be murdered in their own beds rather than engage in a strategic preemptive strike.

No Need to Go There, Sir

Lynd also discussed the problem of building movements around charismatic leadership and, like Prof. Fernandez, represented Brown as lacking in democratic qualities because he was so focused on his divine calling as leader of his movement. This was also probably overdone as criticisms go. After all, Brown was not acting as the leader of a civil rights organization in peace time. He was acting as a military leader in a dangerous and volatile situation. As history shows, he could neither trust nor rely on very many people, and his reticence was to some larger measure necessary, especially given the long history of black liberation efforts undermined by loose lips. With all due respect to Mr. Lynd, his use of Brown as a negative example for contemporary activist strategy was largely self-serving and gratuitous. John Brown never joined the 19th century version of the civil rights movement because he was increasingly weary of noble people like Lynd, who believed that injustice can be preached, schooled, or journalized to death. There was an army of well-organized, democratically driven abolitionists like Lynd in the 19th century, but as biographer David Reynolds has observed, none of them managed to kill slavery as did John Brown.

Death Row Defender of John Brown

As the IMC website says, “Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther currently on death Row at SCI-Greene prison in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Evidence suggests he is falsely imprisoned for his political beliefs.” Mumia writes and prepares radio commentaries on justice issues, and his comments on Brown–in response to Lynd’s presentation, were pre-recorded for the event. Mumia questioned the trendy notion largely among white intellectuals) of John Brown as a terrorist, arguing that violent acts perpetrated on behalf of the state or some powerful private interest have always been condoned by society, and even characterized in patriotic and heroic terms. In illustration , Mumia pointed out that there is a statue of the Confederate murderer and Klan terrorist, Nathan Bedford Forrest, in Washington, D.C., although there is no statue of John Brown. With our nation’s heroic pantheon so full of killers and slave masters, Mumia reasoned, it is unjust that violent acts perpetrated by justice-seekers are condemned as terrorism.

Not A Fair Contrast, Mumia

Of course, Mumia’s pro-Brown treatment notwithstanding, the issue of violence in Brown’s case still begs closer examination. The Pottawatomie killings of 1856 were an unfortunate exception in Brown’s life, and were indicative of an extremely unusual, volatile, and treacherous political dilemma that necessitated extreme action in a vacuum of lawlessness and lack of police protection. At Harper’s Ferry, Brown shied away from violence and bloodshed and virtually ruined himself by his own human sympathies in waiting upon and negotiating with his prisoners, especially the slave masters.

He Walked the Line

Mumia meant well, but he should never put Brown up as the counterpart to the homicidal racist, Nathan Bedford Forrest. On his worst day, John Brown was not even a Clint Eastwood-type of character, fighting for black liberation. He was a radical Christian reformer who tried to walk a thin, moral line between impotent pacifist activism and insurrectionary/revolutionary bloodletting. When he failed, he was pleased to give his life on the gallows like a true Christian witness (which is the origin of the word "martyr.") Still, to Mumia’s great credit, he actually did his homework and quoted extensively from A Voice from Harper’s Ferry, the narrative of Osborne Anderson (one of the few surviving John Brown raiders), written two years after the raid. In the end, it was Anderson’s words–mediated a century-and-a-half later in the resonant tones of Mumia’s voice–that brought the most light to the story of John Brown the man who lived.

By way of historical footnote, Vincent Harding, who was not scheduled to speak but fortuitously happened to be in town for the event, did offer comments and led questions-and-answers with the audience. However the IMC's recording has Harding making no remarks about Brown. This is disappointing, especially since he handled Brown as a historian in his classic study of 19th century black history, There is a River. Harding handled him a bit roughly, I should add, since he portrayed Brown as racially condescending--an unfair and reactionary interpretation that he has hopefully reconsidered over the past two decades.

Audio segments of this forum are available on the website of the Independent Media Center at: http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2006/10/25055.php.">http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2006/10/25055.php. The text of Mumia’s presentation can also be found on line at Prison Radio,
http://www.prisonradio.org/JohnBrown.htm.

Friday, October 27, 2006



History & Real Estate: Captain John Brown's Home in Canton, Conn.

This past June, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Avon, Conn., announced the sale of the newly renovated home of abolitionist John Brown's grandfather, Captain John Brown, in Canton, Conn. According to the CB website, the original house was built circa 1755. Of course the property has undergone extensive improvements over a five-year effort including the home being moved on its lot to connect it with the formerly freestanding converted barn. The Browns would doubtless be awestruck by the 21st century version of their homestead, which features more than 5600 square feet of living space, 4-5 bedrooms, 4 full and one half baths, and "various upscale accoutrements including a Woodmode kitchen, solid core countertops, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, two Asko dishwashers, GE Monogram stainless steel dual fuel oven with 4 burners, griddle and grill, and more." It also includes a 2+ car garage and extensive land. Happily, the old wide board floors remain, and there are ample fireplaces to recall its early American legacy. Get this John Brown enthusiasts--it was listed for over $1 million.

Thursday, October 19, 2006



Abe Lincoln's 1860 John Brown Rhetoric; Hartford Speech Notes for Sale by Christies
Despite the tendency of old school Republicans to couple John Brown and Abraham Lincoln as partners in liberation, and notwithstanding Lincoln's many and varied defenders and apologists, it is a matter of record that the 16th President of the United States was never the friend of the black man that has been portrayed. Just as we can trace the rise of anti-Brown propaganda with the fall of Reconstruction and the reversal of civil rights gains later in the 19th century, we can also trace the canonization of Abraham Lincoln as a race savior in the Reconstruction era. Lincoln's apotheosis, based on the propaganda of abolitionists and the shock following his unprecedented assassination, enshrined him in this nation's memory as a kind of Christ figure for the black community even though black leaders knew that the real Lincoln was a mediocre ally at best. Like John F. Kennedy (who was hardly a civil rights hero), Lincoln's ratings in the black community shot up wonderfully after he took a bullet to the head in 1865. As the eminent historian Leon Litwack writes:
Despite the disappointment over Lincoln's lenient amnesty program [toward Confederates], his misplaced confidence in southern Unionists, and his "moderate" experiments in state reconstruction, the assassination of the President silenced his black critics and threw a stunned black community into deep mourning, as though it had lost its only white friend and protector. The President's initial doubts about the wisdom of emancipation and the enlistment of blacks were now forgotten, his equivocations on civil rights ignored, his schemes of colonization, expatriation, and reconstruction forgiven. Even the cold language and forced nature of his Emancipation Proclamation no longer seemed relevant, giving way to the legend of the Great Emancipator.1

To be sure, Lincoln nearly "came around" to sound thinking in the later years of the Civil War, and his ultimate commitment to emancipation is not to be doubted. He never liked slavery and thought it inappropriate to the great republic. But he also thought its black presence an unfortunate reality as well, and there is little doubt that his ideal vision of the nation entailed the end of slavery and the removal of blacks, or at least their social separation from whites. Notwithstanding his other great qualities, as Frederick Douglass put it in 1876, "in his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices . . . [Abraham Lincoln] was a white man. He was preeminently the white man's President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men . . . . We are at best only his step-children."2

To be sure, David Reynolds shows that Lincoln apparently came to appreciate some aspects of Brown's strategy once he found himself leading the army of the Union. In late 1861, when he was anticipating the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the New York Herald reported that Lincoln had said that "Emancipation would be equivalent to a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."3 But this hardly proves Lincoln an advocate of black liberation and equality. As Douglass well knew, Lincoln's priorities were vested in the interests and agenda of the great white republic as he envisioned it.

Despite the good he ultimately accomplished for the slave, Lincoln essentially stumbled his way into the path of light that Brown had followed quite consistently throughout his days. Lerone Bennett rightly entitles his Lincoln book Forced into Glory precisely for this reason--for he had set out only to save the union, contain slavery, and preserve the status quo of white superiority in the United States. But a stormy Providence forced him to walk where politicians feared to tread, and in the end he suffered assassination for it.

In 1860, however, the man who would be president was certain that the Union could be saved without destroying slavery. In the wake of the Harper's Ferry raid, with the South accusing the Republicans of being an abolitionist movement (something laughably incorrect), Lincoln repeatedly sprang to the defense of his party. His condemnation of John Brown at New York City's Cooper Union was only the most famous of his 1860 renunciations. There was a similar disavowal of Brown made in Kansas, and also at Harford, Connecticut. On March 5, 1860, speaking at the Hartford City Hall, Lincoln accused southern leaders of engaging in "another species of bushwhacking . . . in their treatment of the John Brown and Harper's Ferry affair." Lincoln explained that pro-slavery leaders insisted that "the Republican party incites insurrections," although every "Republican knew that the charge that his party had incited the insurrection was, so far as he was concerned, a slander upon him."4

In 1860, with hopes of entering the White House, Lincoln's job was to disassociate himself and his party from John Brown by any means necessary. Liberation was hardly the watchword of the party, and as the premiere spokesman for the Republicans showed, it was all about disowning John Brown.

-------
This is context for the announcement by Christie's, a leading auction house, concerning the sale of Lincoln documents from the The Forbes Collection of American Historical Documents,Part V. As Christie's website description reports, among them are the

Autograph speech notes, prepared by Lincoln and used when delivering his address at Hartford, Connecticut, 5 March 1860. 2 pages, 8vo (6 x 4½ in.), comprising some 80 words, the first four lines boldly penned in ink (minor dampstains, slightly affecting ink), the rest of the notes added (slightly later?) in pencil (one line slighty shaved in binding). The sheet of Lincoln's notes neatly inlaid to a larger, protective sheet; preceded by a manuscript titlepage reading "Notes used by Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, in a Speech at City Hall, Hartford, Conn. On the evening of March 5th 1860. Left on the Table by Him and preserved by Jesse H. Lord, Reporter of the Hartford Daily Times"; a 4 May 1923 letter from Robert Todd Lincoln to John O. H. Pitney tipped in. Bound in dark green morocco gilt, gilt borders and spine, gilt inner turn-ins, watered silk endleaves, by H. Zucker.5

The auctioner's description further states that this document represents an "exceptionally rare speech outline attacking 'Southern bushwhackers,' rejecting John Brown, and defending free labor's right to strike." The document was taken from the city hall podium after Lincoln's "mostly impromptu address." I should add that Lincoln gave this speech nearly one year to the day that he was inaugurated as President, March 4, 1861.6

The first page has telegraphic styled notes in Lincoln's hand that read: "Signs of decay--bushwhacking. Irrepressible conflict. John Brown Shoe trade. True or not true. If true, what? Mason. Plasters. If not true, what?" On verso, Lincoln writes: "is the question. We must deal with it. Magnitude of question. What prevents just now? Right--wrong--indifference. Indifference unphilosophical. Because nobody is indifferent. Must be converted to. Can be, or cannot be done. I suppose can not. But if can, what result? Indifference, then must be rejected. And what supported? Sectionalism Conservatism. John Brown. Conclusion."7

Interested collectors are encouraged to check out the Christie's website ASAP. Certainly this was a fascinating and historic speech by President Lincoln. It reminds us that in 1860--like today--John Brown's soul was indeed marching on.

Notes

1 Leon F. Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (New York: Knopf, 1979), 527.

2 The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass; written by himself (Hartford, Conn.: Park Publishing Co., 1881; rptd. Seacaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1983), 492-93.

3 David S. Reynolds, John Brown Abolitionist (New York: Knopf, 2005), 471.

4 Hartford Courant [Conn.] report as quoted on Christie’s website, retrieved October 19, 2006 from <http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/search/LFA.asp?eid=5406496>

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


The Harper's Ferry Raid vs The Defense of the Alamo
Today [October 16, 2006] is the 147th anniversary of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia (today, West Virginia, which was made a state in 1863).

With a small band of men, white and black, Brown seized the federal armory--the only government armory in the South--as well as the arsenal and took prisoners while his men rounded up local enslaved men to assist them on the ground. Much of what has been otherwise said of the raid has been skewed and misrepresented by slavemasters, Democrats and Republicans, and a host of hostile and/or ignorant journalists and historians over the past century-and-a-half.

Here are 7 points about the Harper's Ferry raid you should know:

1. It was well planned and reasonable. Brown did his homework and knew that the armory/arsenal was not guarded by the military and hardly guarded at all. He took both the armory and town of Harper's Ferry completely by surprise by invading late at night on Oct. 16 and held an advantage throughout the night and into the early morning hours. Even Frederick Douglass was wrong when he predicted it was necessarily a "perfect steel trap." Douglass over-estimated the defense and defenders--although he may have had a prophetic sense of Brown's tragic delay, which is really what cost him the raid--and his life.

2. The raid was not an act of terrorism and Brown was not a terrorist. Had it been an act of terrorism, Brown would not have failed, for the reason the raid did not succeed was because he paid too much concern to his hostages, including some whining slave masters, and undermined himself in trying to negotiate with them. Would a terrorist allow his prisoners to go home and see their families under guard and send out for their breakfast? This is also what Brown did while holding Harper's Ferry under his control. Indeed the raid was designed to have symbolic and strategic value, as the jump-start of his planned mountain-based campaign to gather enslaved people from the depths of the South.

3. Brown's actual plan was reasonable. He intended to spread out in small groups of raiders throughout the vast mountain system of the eastern U.S. that stretches from north to south, and make (by stealth) invasions of farms and plantations to lead enslaved people off, thus swelling his forces and de-stabilizing the southern economy. His intention was to fight only in self-defense, not to make deliberate war upon slave masters and their families (insurrection). Brown explicitly and repeatedly denied that he intended an insurrection, yet historians, following the reactionary tenor of slave masters, continue to say this was his purpose. It would have been virtually impossible to stop a movement consisting of small groups of men and women working in the mountain system or to prevent large numbers of people from escaping from slavery to join them. Nor was the U.S. military equipped, trained, or prepared for a guerilla war if it came to such fighting. If initiated, Brown's movement would have at least festered and upset the South in an unprecedented manner.

4. It is NOT true that enslaved people did not support the raid. For the relatively small number of enslaved people in this town and vicinity of the upper south, the evidence is that a good many more enslaved men actually came into town to support John Brown. Slave masters afterward denied this in order to sustain the southern myth of the loyal slave. Since 1859, politicians, journalists, and historians have favored the testimony of southern whites and largely ignored what Brown's own men have said, particularly Osborne Anderson, a black raider who actually wrote a short history of the raid.

5. Strategically, Brown did not want fugitives from slavery to participate in the raid on Harper's Ferry. This puts to rest the hackneyed, erroneous notion that the "slaves did not support Brown." His intention was to rendezvous with them outside of the town after the raid, withdrawing with them to the mountains. There are at least two substantial testimonies and additional supportive evidence that many more fugitives--hundreds, perhaps more, were beginning to gather outside of town. However they had to withdraw because Brown delayed and became caught in a trap that could easily have been avoided had he left town by early morning Oct. 17.

6. Despite a good plan, Brown defeated himself. His overly ponderous nature and worries over the welfare of his captives (perhaps too he was seeking to negotiate the emancipation of their slaves) gave local militia enough time to gather and cut off escape routes. Yet it took another day and the help of the U.S. marines to actually capture John Brown, his raiders, and the surviving enslaved men who supported them. Had he kept to his own plan and schedule, he and his fugitive allies would have almost walked away from Harper's Ferry without facing any significant opposition, and could have easily retreated to the mountains as planned. Contrary to the notion that he was a crazy man and a killer, it seems that John Brown was actually too tender-hearted and still hoped to resolve some of the issue by negotiation. This was his greatest error.

7. Even though Brown failed to initiate his plans and was hanged, historians like Jean Libby and Hannah Geffert have shown that the black community in Jefferson County and surrounding counties were heavily impacted by his presence. The census of 1860 shows that slavemasters lost their "property" in great numbers following the raid--a direct result of black people's determination to make good out of Brown's death. Local enslaved people poisoned the livestock and set fires on the property of slave owners and even some of the jurors in John Brown's trial. Jean Libby has uncovered evidence that local blacks tried to communicate with Brown while he was in jail, and we can even see an imprisoned Brown conversely playing down the extent of their involvement him out of concern for their welfare (southerners historically unleashed violent fury on the enslaved community even when they successfully put down uprisings, etc.). Brown, his men, and the enslaved community were far more networked than conventional historians want to acknowledge.

How Do You "Remember the Alamo"?
In conclusion, the Harper's Ferry Raid is the exact opposite of the famous Alamo incident in Texas, yet the U.S. has largely sanctified and enshrined the latter, while misrepresenting the former as a crazy, hopeless, and desperate attempt by a criminal. The Alamo was about a small group of pro-slavery secessionists and their Mexican allies, trying to break away from an anti-slavery state for reasons of self-interest. Their heroism and nobility can only be measured in terms of 19th century white supremacy, which unfortunately is what has been so often romanticized in cinematic terms. Mexico justly suppressed these proto-Texans at the Alamo, just as the federal government would have to suppress their heirs in the Civil War. Yet in the immediate sense, the Alamo's fall only fueled a stronger movement in the U.S. to fight Mexico--a fight largely supported by pro- slavery interests. (Certainly John Brown did not support the war with Mexico).

In contrast, the Harper's Ferry raid was the effort of a small band which, to a man, involved people with unusually high principles and convictions regarding justice and human liberation. There was no self-interest in the group, except for Dangerfield Newby, who was fighting in the hopes of freeing his enslaved wife and family. The goal of the raid was not to seize territory and extend slavery but to deflate and collapse the slave economy. Brown believed that a civil war was inevitable, even imminent, and hoped to defuse it by undermining the infrastructure of the South with minimal violence. Historians have often "credited" him with the start of the Civil War, although it had been his hope of avoiding it. To suggest (as did some 20th century historians) that the War would have been avoided were it not for Brown, is ridiculous. The problem of slavery had to be dealt with, and to suggest that another half-century of "moderation" was needed is unrealistic with respect to Southern militancy. Too, to suggest that slavery should have been phased out in time is to join with many others who have temporized over doing justice for reasons of prejudice. The Harper's Ferry raid represented the best interests of our nation's founders, many of whom were stymied by their own racism and hypocrisy (like Thomas Jefferson) being both prophets of freedom and slave masters. Brown--not the floundering late-born emancipator Lincoln--represents the prophetic single-minded corrective to Washington and Jefferson's double-mindedness.

John Brown was a "Bible Christian" who acted out of interest in the freedom of an oppressed and victimized people. He believed something had to be done and at least he tried. To impugn him for using "violence" is hypocrisy since our nation used violence in order to subdue, control, and "settle" this land. To condemn him for not allowing the "problem" to be resolved by governmental leadership is also a farce. First, this is precisely what Brown and many other anti-slavery people did throughout the first half of the 19th century. By 1850 things had actually gotten worse for the cause of freedom. The government was in the hands of pro-slavery forces and there was secession (and continued slavery) on the lips of powerful southerners. Furthermore the North was hardly driven by concern for free blacks, let alone enslaved black people in the South. As long as slavery was contained, people like Abe Lincoln would have been contented.

All things considered, the Harper's Ferry raid, failure and all, was exactly what was needed in the long run. There was no other way to deal with slavery except by ending it, and there was no other way to end it than by a program using a measure of violence. Brown tried a program of minimalist bloodshed and happily went to the gallows believing that his death would at least snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. “I failed,” John Brown told one of his Virginia guards, “but it is only delay, for as certain as the sun shines, the negroes will soon be set free.” John Brown was prescient in his vision of slavery's end. Lincoln began his presidency by defaming Brown but ended it by doing a political imitation of him.

How one views the Alamo and Harper's Ferry is not a matter of historical trivia. It is a barometer of one's sense of justice in history and probably in the contemporary sense as well.
----

L. DeCaro Jr.

Monday, September 18, 2006


19th Century John Brown Tribute Medals Auctioned

The Heritage Auction Galleries have recently sold some rare tribute medals produced after Brown's execution in 1859. The medals were part of the Troy Wiseman Collection and were recently auctioned.

One medal is described as an bronze "french tribute medal" based upon a dies by Jean Wurden, commemorating Brown's birthdate and place on one side, and his judicial assassination (Brown called it "my public murder") by the State of Virginia on the other side.

Another medal is described as white metal with another bearded image of Brown on one side, and an image of Brown hanged on the other. Interestingly it reads "marching along," which was probably an early variation of the well known, "his soul is marching on" theme.

Like Brown's letters, I hardly have the budget to purchase such things, but it's nice to be able to see them. Maybe you have such a budget. check out The Heritage Auction Galleries at:
http://coins.heritageauctions.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=416&Lot_No=6129#Photo



Sunday, August 13, 2006

They Did Too Support John Brown
--a few quick comments to The Washington Times

Rick Britton's article [Washington Times, 10 Aug.] about the abolitionist John Brown at Harper's Ferry is appreciated and reasonably well done, except for the contention that "not a single slave joined him in his cause." Biographers and scholars of Brown and the raid like myself, Jean Libby, Hannah Geffert and others have challenged the longstanding assumption of historians--based mainly on the testimony of slaveholders and southern whites at the time, that enslaved blacks did not support Brown's effort. But there is actually a good bit of primary evidence that a significant number of slaves turned out, or at least remained on the periphery of the town, stifled because Brown delayed in leaving Harper's Ferry. The old abolitionist was far more effective than conventional historians have acknowledged. But their bias is being challenged and overturned by bonafide research.
Louis DeCaro Jr.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Letter/Announcement by Jean Libby, Historian & Document Expert:

New Publication to be Presented at the Upcoming Niagara Movement Commemoration at Harper's Ferry

Dear friends and scholars of John and Mary Brown,

John Brown's Family in California, the newest publication by Allies for Freedom will be first presented at the Niagara Movement Commemoration in Harpers Ferry on August 18-20, 2006. The booksigning will take place on August 20, following the walk to John Brown's Fort at dawn in the footsteps of W.E.B. Du Bois and the civil rights pioneers and the services and concert in the Free Will Baptist Church on the Storer College campus.

The book is in 8 ½ by 11 magazine format, 40 pages, and contains essays by April Halberstadt, director of the Saratoga (California) Historical Museum; Eric Ledell Smith, historian at the State Museum of Pennsylvania; John M. Lawlor history professor at Reading Area Community College; Louis M. DeCaro, Jr., biographer of John Brown and editor of a new life and letters to be published in October (International Publishers).

My own essays and photos in the book date back to a cross-country train trip in 1976 and photographing direct descendants of John and Mary Brown (Beatrice Keesey, Alice Keesey, age sixteen, and Jim Keesey, age twelve] in their California home in December of that same year. The Keesey family's direct forbear was Annie Brown Adams, the same who spent her sixteenth summer, 1859, at the Kennedy Farm in Maryland. The resemblance of Annie and Alice at the same age is breath-taking. Today, Alice Keesey McCoy is an active John Brown scholar interested in the family relationships and historical significance.

This new publication is revised from a course reader that I made for a California History Center one-unit Travel Class (yes, you do have to write a report if you want academic credit). It has a driving tour of sites associated with the family of John Brown, which includes the entire civic center of the City of Saratoga, California, located on the orchard owned by Ellen Brown and her husband Tom Fablinger, adjacent to the one owned by Sarah Brown.

The heart of this new publication is the search for family and identity, whether in the archives of the United States or in the genealogy of the descendants, even in the genealogy of some slaveholders when that provided explanation for African American family's forced migration. In this case the remarkable providence is that an original (1999) Allies for Freedom organizer, Judith Grevious Cephas, in looking for documentation of rupture of the Grevious family from Virginia to Kentucky, found that the slaveholder was the Taliaferro family of Gloucester County. William Booth "Toliver" was put in charge of the military rule at Charlestown during the imprisonment and execution of John Brown. He was selected by Governor Wise because of experience with slave insurrection in 1836, which resulted in the expulsion of free African Americans from Gloucester County. This research chain was initiated through a reference in the work of the late Dr. Herbert Aptheker, in American Negro Slave Revolts. The enginehouse for research is now the Internet.

Lori Deal, a descendant of Lucy Higgins (a progressive woman in Santa Clara, California, who was a friend of Sarah Brown), began searching for answers about her family, who had inherited a letter from John Brown to his wife, Mary, written in 1854. As Lori searched for a location to donate this letter to best serve the continuation of the ideas of the abolitionist women of Santa Clara County (voting rights and equality for all, including the new racial minority in California, Asians) she decided upon The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

One reason for her decision was the online cataloging of their collection on the entire university library system. Further, she extracted a promise from the curator that Bancroft would cooperate with smaller local institutions such as the Saratoga Historical Foundation to provide information about their collections.

The Bancroft Library could look at Kansas, where the letters of Mary Brown and other Brown family members at the Kansas State Historical Society are online in cooperation with Territorial Kansas, a smaller historical entity with much expertise. We would like to encourage a similar process in California.

For some years several of the authors of John Brown's Family in California have been working together to create a documents book about John Brown. Some of this begins anew, particularly the carpetbag documents and analysis by Pennsylvanians Eric Ledell Smith and John M. Lawlor. Meanwhile, the person who took the carpetbag from the Kennedy Farm, CLIFTON W. TAYLUERE, a Maryland Confederate, has been lurking in the margins of earlier histories, "sometimes misidentified [Villard] but mostly ignored,” waiting for his proper credit. It was he who donated "Sambos Mistakes" to the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore in 1883, with a long letter describing the events of October 18. Scott Sherlock, a volunteer at MHS wanting to publicize its treasures, has made a verbatim transcription of "Sambos Mistakes" from John Brown's handwriting. This was no mean feat, because the copy was in reverse, John Brown having kept a carbon-type copy of the essay written for the African American newspaper The Ram's Horn in 1848. Scott did it with a laptop computer and a hand-held mirror from the handbag of an MHS archivist.

Eric Ledell Smith has put some preliminary information about Clifton Tayluere in the carpetbag documents article, but a couple of Yankees can't do him justice. He is a worthy subject for his own people--Scott Sherlock and Dennis Frye come to mind--and there is enough in the MHS to make another Civil War science fiction, Bill Forstchen. Ask Scott to describe the numbers that Brown has written completely over a large page. Numerology? Astronomy? Whatever it is, that is another of the documents that Clifton Tayluere kept as souvenirs (with permission from Jeb Stuart and Andrew Hunter) of the carpetbag that he took for his journal, the Baltimore Clipper.

Before rushing off to find the microfilm of the Clipper for the time of John Brown's raid, be advised that there isn't one. The archivists and historians in their wisdom microfilmed the Baltimore Sun of October, 1859 but not the Clipper. I had the Clipper scanned personally at the Maryland State Archives in 2001, but it needs a better budget than that of a retired part-time teacher to be sure it was done completely, and can be made public. I have made CD copies of the scans for the State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Maryland Historical Society, and of course my first resource, the Western Maryland Room of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown. Eric Ledell Smith has correlated the carpetbag documents with these newspapers as well as the Dreer Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the published records of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Mason Committee. John M. Lawlor has correlated them with the records at the National Archives and Records Administration, finding a different group of originals, all taken from Brown at his capture on October 18.

Please enjoy John Brown's Family in California in the spirit of inquiry and identity that engendered it. It is available for ordering from Allies for Freedom on our new (shared) e-commerce site which can be approached via http://www.alliesforfreedom.org/ or directly at http://store.atozproductions.com/ Delivery will begin following the booksigning in Harpers Ferry on August 20. ISBN 0-9773638-2-1.

My best regards -- see many of you next week!
Jean

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Letter to the Herald-Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland):
A Response to Some anti-Brown Snobs


Snob No. 1 Writes


"I came across a letter to the editor in Sunday's paper. The letter states that John Brown was not a hero - he was a terrorist. Hurray to the person who wrote this, because he or she is 100 percent right. I took some time a few years ago to study the life of John Brown. What I read of him disturbed me. I came to my own conclusion that John Brown was indeed a murderer, a traitor, and in today's terms, a terrorist."


Snob No. 2 Writes


"This letter in Sunday's paper about John Brown being a terrorist is exactly correct. He was nothing but a murderer of any race who got in his way. Question: Why is it there's no monument for Pvt. Luke Quinn, the only Marine killed by John Brown's crew during the storming of the firehouse? Oh well, he was just another soldier doing his duty."
- Jefferson County, W.Va.


To Whom it May Concern:
Some of your readers confidently assert that abolitionist John Brown was a criminal and terrorist. As a biographer of the man, I get weary of people making these kinds of pontifications based on evidently little knowledge of the man's life and times. Nor do these people know the history of John Brown's biographers and the currents and prejudices that shaped the "mainstream" view of him in the 20th century. My reading of the man is that he killed when he felt there were no alternatives within a society overrun by pro-slavery terrorists, overseen by a pro-slavery government that turned a blind eye to injustice. My belief is that if John Brown were really a terrorist, the outcome in Harper's Ferry would have been significantly different and more terrible as well. In fact, Brown failed because he was too concerned for slaveholders as human beings. Perhaps he should have been less so. The 21st century is John Brown's come back time. More people are gaining an appreciation for the man who lived, and I am proud to be part of that movement of education and understanding. Warts and all, John Brown was a good man, a humanitarian, and a greater hero than many of the killers and truce-breakers sanctified in conventional history texts.


Rev. Louis A. DeCaro Jr., Ph.D.New York, NY

Blog Postscript:

Interesting that one of the anti-Brown snobs writes from Jefferson County, the site of the Harper's Ferry raid. As the old biblical saying goes, "the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge." In other words, some people's ancestors took the side of injustice and supported the theft of other people's labor, and their descendants still spew out the same bitter prejudice of the slave master. As far as Pvt. Luke Quinn (the marine that died in the final rush on the engine house in Harper's Ferry) is concerned, he died "serving his country" having signed on with the understanding that his death in time of war was a distinct possibility. But the nobility of soldiering is not a given. A soldier is noble when the cause he fights is noble. A soldier's death is worth a monument when the cause for which he lays down his life is monumental. Luke Quinn was "doing his duty," but so was John Brown. Yet on the scales of history, Quinn's sacrifice weighs exceedingly lighter than that of Brown and his men. The former was merely following orders as good soldiers do. The latter were marching to the divine drumbeat of a higher and more principled cause--the liberation of humanity.--LD

Thursday, July 20, 2006

NAACP Honors Abolitionist John Brown

by Nakia Herring

Baltimore Times, July 20,2006

Harpers Ferry, West Va. - Abolitionist John Brown was considered a man of action for his stance on slavery. On October 16, 1859, Brown would lead 21 men on a raid of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). His plan to arm slaves with weapons he had taken from the arsenal was thwarted by Colonel Robert E. Lee, whose soldiers killed or captured most of Brown’s men. Brown was also captured, tried, sentenced and executed. Brown grew up in a family that opposed slavery.

It was not until 1855 that Brown would become a significant player against slavery; when he became the leader of antislavery guerrillas and fought a proslavery attack against the town of Lawrence, Kansas. For his acts to bring justice to the enslaved, W.E.B. DuBois and attendants of the 1932 Washington NAACP convention, would make the same journey back to Harpers Ferry, to honor Brown with “The Great Tablet,” to be left at historically black Storer College. In 1932, the college denied permission of dedicating the tablet, saying the tablet was too militant.

On July 14, 2006, 74 years after the refusal, the NAACP, who was meeting for their 97th convention in Washington, D.C., returned to Harpers Ferry to lay “The Great Tablet” honoring Brown at Storer College, who now welcomed the tablet with open arms. The re-enactment is part of a series of NAACP events leading up to the organization's centennial celebration in 2009.On a beautiful day, NAACP members, young and old, gathered for this historic moment, taking an eight-car train ride to Harpers Ferry. Dr, Benjamin L. Hooks, NAACP executive director emeritus and the Reverend Theresa A. Dear, NAACP Board of Directors member co-presided over the event. The Bradford Singers of Harpers Ferry provided musical selections.

“History has been recorded throughout the year and today we revisit history and simultaneously we make history,” says Rev. Dear. Dr. Hooks, who has been executive director of the NAACP since 1977 said, “As the NAACP launches a series of commemorations to celebrate the 100th year of our existence, Harpers Ferry is a major landmark in this historical journey in retracing the Niagara Movement. For indeed in 1906, 100 years ago this year, the Niagara Movement held its second meeting in Harpers Ferry.”

“Today, we at the NAACP come back to finalize what W.E.B. DuBois initiated in 1932, but was thwarted by the then president of Storer College,” he said. The Mayor of Harpers Ferry James Addy welcomed the NAACP and those who traveled to be a part of the historic day.

“Today we pay tribute to John Brown, his people, the martyrs to his cause, W.E.B. DuBois, those people who initiated the Niagara Movement and the NAACP. We are here to right a wrong that was committed in 1932. We do this in order to say most loudly, this is not for ourselves alone,” said Addy. George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County NAACP in Ranson, West Virginia was proud to have the tablet home where it belongs. “This is a very historical day. It has taken 74 years to complete the erection of this tablet, but the NAACP still prevailed. I am sure that Dr. DuBois and the 1932 members are smiling down on us today and saying well done,” said Rutherford. Mary Harris, president of the Storer College Alumni Association brought greetings from her colleagues. “It is an honor to stand on these grounds and witness the accomplishments of an endeavor 74 years ago, the placing of “The Great Tablet.”

Since 1932, John Brown's Fort has been relocated several times, and the Storer College campus no longer exists. We are blessed for the opportunity to participate in this historical moment,” she said. In another announcement, Michael Ward, chairman, president and CEO, CSX Corporation said that the historic eight-car train that was taken to Harpers Ferry, would be dedicated to A. Philip Randolph.After Roslyn M. Brock, vice chair, NAACP National Board of Directors and chair NAACP Convention Planning Committee reminisced about Saturday, May 21, 1932 and the pilgrimage to Harpers Ferry, “The Great Tablet” was blessed by the Reverend Morris L. Shearin, Sr. and re-presented by Julian Bond, chair, NAACP National Board of Directors, Bruce S. Gordon, NAACP president and CEO and the Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters of Prince Hall Masons.

“To complete Dr. DuBois' mission of 1932, to honor John Brown, to execute the NAACP's long documented role in honoring persons who fight for justice and equality and in the presence of this great audience and the Masons from Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia and West Virginia, I hereby lay this great tablet,” said Bond. Gordon, the current NAACP president said, “We stand here today representing 300,000 NAACP members across the country and around the world. We represent our 2,200 friends and units around the world, as we execute this deed so that others for many years to come will know the history of John Brown and acknowledge John Brown. It is our duty and responsibility to be certain that our young people and future generations know what he did for this country and for our people.”

As the day went on, the Rev. Dear called the roll of civil rights pioneers as related to Harpers Ferry, which included: Prince Hall Masons, Du Bois Circle, Pullman Porters and the NAACP. Jane White Viazzi, daughter of the late Walter White, NAACP executive secretary reminisced about the Niagara Movement.At the closing of the event, all whom attended the historic event posed for a commemorative photograph in front of Anthony Hall at Storer College. The photograph represents the re-presentation of the “The Great Tablet” 74 years later.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Julian Bond, David Reynolds, and Malcolm X on John Brown

Julian Bond's speech at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, which I have supplied below under this date, reflects the best intentions and highest regards befitting the black community's historical appreciation of abolitionist John Brown--and is happily absent of Bond's earlier apologetics in which he differentiated between Brown the hero and Brown the alleged perpetuator of violence.

Besides commemorating the NAACPs pro-Brown demonstrations of 1906, Bond's speech reveals that he has apparently been jolted into action by the publication of David Reynolds's 2005 biography, John Brown Abolitionist, in which the author promotes Brown as "the man who killed slavery, sparked the Civil War, and seeded Civil Rights." The Reynolds book leaves a lot to be desired as a work of history, but the author is at least to be credited for moving many people back toward a favorable reading of Brown after so many years of banishment from the favor of American sentimentality.

Unfortunately Reynolds' book is nevertheless conflicted by the author's portrayal of Brown as a "good" terrorist, a kind of Dirty Harry on the Kansas prairie. I have met Reynolds, I like him, and I think his appreciation of Brown is increasing. However in the same manner that his book has caused activists and scholars to reconsider Brown in a positive light, his work has also affirmed the unfortunate terrorist notion that has become the mainstay of so much writing about Brown these days. After reading the text of Bond's speech at Harper's Ferry, it became clear that his own unfortunate apologia was probably informed by Reynolds's ambivalent portrayal. This also explains why Bond felt it necessary to excuse the NAACP's tribute by "admitting" that even though they like him, they too believe Brown was a "perpetuator of violence."

Yet in his speech at Harper's Ferry, Bond skipped over Brown's oh-so-horrible-violence and emphasizes his singular role as a "righteous Caucasian." Referring to the Reynolds book, Bond pointed out that of all the white Americans in U.S. history, Brown has been more widely admired by blacks than even Abraham Lincoln. (My 2002 biography actually precedes Reynolds in demonstrating the uniqueness of Brown's relationship with the black community, but he has made the significant argument that Brown "seeded" civil rights by his life and death.) So what does Bond really believe about John Brown?

Obviously the NAACP leader was also speaking out of the tradition of the NAACP itself, particularly the thinking of DuBois, one of the movement's founders. Interestingly, though, another founder of the NAACP was the white pacificist Oswald G. Villard (grandson of William Lloyd Garrison). Villard wrote the first modern biography of Brown, providing the ambivalent paradigm that Reynolds and Bond have used in both praising him and branding him a violent man.

Incidentally, as I suggest in my earlier commentary on Bond's words, he indeed drew the association of Brown with Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, and Denmark Vesey as "compatriots" in struggle. Yet in his address there is not the slightest apology on their behalf for their violence (or intended use of violence) against white pro-slavery people. I wonder why Bond felt it necessary to offer a shabby apology for the NAACP's support of Brown, but waxed so boldly in his ceremonial address in speaking of Nat Turner and Brown so heroically?

One last point. Bond included Malcolm X in a list of black leaders who "celebrated" John Brown. As a student of Malcolm, however, my own reading leaves me feeling that Bond is exaggerating. I would not call Malcolm's several recorded references to Brown grudging, but neither would I call them celebrative. I believe Malcolm quietly admired Brown, and my guess is that his awareness of Brown went back to his prison readings in the late 1940s. I suspect (for reasons I have not fully documented) also that Malcolm was probably reading about Brown in the latter phase of his time in the Nation of Islam and thus was troubled by the fact that the abolitionist's legacy frankly debunked the claims of the "Black Muslims." He was not only a "good white," but he fought harder than most black contemporaries and died on behalf of the anti-slavery cause. Any black person who would call such a man a "white devil" would have to be either poisoned in his soul or simply a liar and a charlatan. Elijah Muhammad may have been both, but Malcolm was surely neither. Perhaps if he had not been entangled in Elijah's "straitjacket" religion, he would have admitted that Brown was indeed a "righteous Caucasian" as Bond says.

Even after Malcolm was put out of the Nation of Islam and became an independent leader his remarks about Brown were appreciative but laced with a tone of indifference--as if he was afraid that speaking too warmly about him might cause blacks to slip back into integrationism or provide some self-congratulating relief to whites. Whatever the case, I believe Malcolm X used Brown more as a means of challenging whites who were steeped in the non-violent civil rights mindset by holding him up as a model--probably knowing full well that few if any of them could ever attain such a stature. Otherwise he made it clear he had no intention of celebrating John Brown.

L. DeCaro Jr.
Speech by Julian Bond,
Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors
at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia
July 14, 2006

To distinguished platform guests and friends. Our great thanks to all who have made this day possible.

We are here today because this place and the martyrs who died here are inextricably tied to the NAACP and the unending struggle for freedom. There is an unbroken line leading from this place until today – a line and lineage we are come to commemorate and honor so that future generations will never forget.

John Brown’s biographer David S. Reynolds argues that no other white person, including President Lincoln, has been so widely admired among American blacks as John Brown.

One of our founders, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois wrote of Brown as "the man who of all Americans has perhaps become nearest to touching the real souls of black folk. John Brown worked not simply for black men – he worked with them; he was a companion of their daily life, knew their faults and virtues, and felt, as few white Americans have felt, the bitter tragedy of their lot."

Generation after generation have praised him and held him up as an example of righteous wrath. From T. Thomas Fortune and Frances Grimke to Langston Hughes to Countee Cullen, Robert Williams, Eldridge Cleaver, H. Rap Brown, Malcolm X, a constellation of who’s who of black Americana has celebrated John Brown as the exemplar – the righteous Caucasian.

John Brown lived in an America where great social ills abounded – income inequality on a scope we cannot imagine, women without rights or votes, gross political corruption at every turn, environmental degradation far beyond today’s horrors, urban decay. But of all these, it was human slavery that repulsed Brown enough to lead him to make Kansas more bloody – and later, brought him here to Harpers Ferry.

Slavery, to Brown, was "the sum of all evils." And slavery seemed to Brown and others to be fixed, cemented in the culture, immovable. It denied millions their rights and dignity.

"No other social phenomenon approached its wickedness. No other problem, thought Brown, required the use of arms."

It was because of what happened here that DuBois chose Harpers Ferry for the Niagara Movement’s second gathering in August of 1906. Here women were invited to join the Niagara Movement, and here DuBois outlined what the struggle for freedom was about. He wrote:

"We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves but for all true Americans."

In 1932, as part of the 23rd Annual NAACP Convention, Dr. DuBois led a pilgrimage to Storer College to place a memorial tablet here to commemorate the great service and sacrifice of John Brown to the cause of human freedom.

The effort was not as welcomed then as it is now. DuBois' plans were frustrated in 1932, but today we have taken up his unfinished work from all those years ago. In a speech here then, W.E.B. DuBois captured for all time the unsettling meaning of Brown's legacy:

"Some people have the idea that crucifixion consists in the punishment of an innocent man. The essence of crucifixion is that men are killing a criminal, that men have got to kill him ... and yet that the act of crucifying him is the salvation of the world. John Brown broke the law; he killed human beings... . Those people who defended slavery had to execute John Brown although they knew that in killing him they were committing the greater crime. It is out of that human paradox that there comes crucifixion."

At that gathering, another NAACP founder, Dr. J. Max Barber said "The ideals of John Brown are being carried forward by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People". And so they are today, 74 years later.

Frederick Douglass and John Brown had been friends long before the raid. Douglass wrote:

"From the time of my visit to him in Springfield, Mass., in 1847, our relations were friendly and confidential. I never passed through Springfield without calling on him, and he never came to Rochester without calling on me. He often stopped over night with me."

Brown had mentioned his plan to Douglass as early as 1847. The two men met for the last time on August 19, 1859, in an abandoned quarry near here in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. For three days, the two men discussed whether violence could be legitimately used to free the nation's slaves. Douglass, in the end, refused to join his friend in the raid.

When Douglass spoke at the commencement here on May 30, 1881, the man who had prosecuted John Brown and sent him to the gallows sat on the Storer College platform directly behind Douglass. But that did not stop Douglass from explaining what John Brown had meant in 1859 or in 1881 or predicting what he would mean in the years ahead.

Douglass said: "With John Brown, as with every other man fit to die for a cause, the hour of his physical weakness was the hour of his moral strength—the hour of his defeat was the hour of his triumph—the moment of his capture was the crowning victory of his life. With the Allegheny Mountains for his pulpit, the country for his church and the whole civilized world for his audience, he was a thousand times more effective as a preacher than as a warrior …"

"Mighty with the sword of steel, he was mightier with the sword of truth, and with this sword he literally swept the horizon. . . . "

"If John Brown did not end the war that ended slavery, he did at least begin the war that ended slavery. . . . Until this blow was struck, the prospect for freedom was dim, shadowy and uncertain. The irrepressible conflict was one of words, votes and compromises. When John Brown stretched forth his arm, the sky was cleared." So we gather to honor the man and the standards of justice and equality for which he stood. We hope to remind America of freedom’s costs and to call forth others with the John Brown spirit.

Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey were his compatriots. Nat Turner and Toussaint L’Ouverture were his inspiration. The modern day freedom movement was his offspring

In his autobiography, Dr. DuBois summed up what John Brown meant for all time.

"We do not believe in violence, neither in the despised violence of the raid nor the lauded violence of the soldier, nor the barbarous violence of the mob; but we do believe in John Brown, in that incarnate spirit of justice, that hatred of a lie, that willingness to sacrifice money, reputation, and life itself on the altar of right. And here on the scene of John Brown's martyrdom, we reconsecrate ourselves, our honor, our property to the final emancipation of the race which John Brown died to make free."


NAACP honors John Brown

The Associated Press (July 15, 2006)



BALTIMORE — About 74 years ago, W.E.B. Du Bois led the NAACP from the group’s convention in Washington to a historically black college in Harpers Ferry, W. Va., to lay a tablet to honor militant abolitionist John Brown.


But Storer College officials objected, saying it was too militant.


Friday, as the NAACP gathered for its 97th convention in Washington, the group’s officials took a vintage train ride to Harpers Ferry to lay a tablet in a town where Brown captured a government arsenal in 1859.


Julian Bond, the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the raid sent shock waves through the country — 16 months before the Civil War — spreading fear in the white South and causing abolitionists in the North to celebrate Brown’s actions as heroic.


“Most condemned the violence but celebrated the impulse, and I think that that’s generally true today,” Bond said. “They’re not celebrating the violence that he perpetuated. They’re celebrating his commitment to racial justice, and we think it’s fitting to continue that celebration.”


The tablet laid Friday includes the original language, which expresses the NAACP’s gratitude for Brown’s actions. It is the same design and layout of the original.

“With him fought seven slaves and sons of slaves,” the tablet says. “Over his crucified corpse marched 200,000 black soldiers and 4,000,000 freedmen singing ‘John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave but his soul goes marching on!”’


The re-enactment was part of a series of NAACP events leading to the organization’s centennial celebration in 2009.


In the late 1850s, Brown and 21 others occupied the arsenal at Harpers Ferry in what is now West Virginia to start a “war of emancipation.” The next day, a company of Marines under Col. Robert E. Lee took Brown’s last stronghold by assault. Ten people were killed or mortally wounded, including two of Brown’s 20 children.


Brown was convicted of treason to the Virginia Commonwealth and conspiracy to murder.


Harpers Ferry has a special place in the history of the NAACP. It was where the Niagara Movement, which Du Bois founded as the cornerstone of the modern civil rights movement, held its first meeting on U.S. soil in 1906. (The first meeting was in Canada.)



Julian Bond's Shabby Defense of John Brown

by Louis A. DeCaro Jr.


It is well and good that the NAACP would acknowledge John Brown in following the example of civil rights leaders in 1906, as well as following the lead of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), whose leaders placed a wreath on Brown's grave this past May.

However Julian Bond's remark to the effect that the NAACP is "not celebrating the violence that he perpetuated" is insulting and shows the extent to which Bond's understanding of Brown has been imprinted with historical error, and perhaps even reveals a level of intimidation and hypocrisy in the thinking of the civil rights leader.

For an African American leader to speak of John Brown "perpetuating" violence in the context of a nation steeped in slavery and racism is not only proof of deficiency in historical understanding, but an insult to the man he claims to be honoring. Bond is undoubtedly sincere and well-meaning, but his remarks class him among a set of 20th century black intellectuals who embraced the status quo profile of John Brown contrived mainly by elitist European American male scholars. In contrast to fearless, unapologetic black writers like Lerone Bennett and John O. Killens, Julian Bond joins the ranks of black "admirers" like Benjamin Quarles and Ralph Ellison, who were apparently intimidated by the reactionary historical ban on John Brown that prevails in liberal and conservative narratives. Like Quarles and Ellison, Bond would both praise and incriminate Brown at the same time, putting forth his lame distinction between Brown's alleged role in "perpetuating violence" and his sterling commitment to racial justice.

John Brown did nothing to “perpetuate violence” despite all the rhetoric and hearsay that is reported as history in the United States. Indeed there is still a lack of fair and accurate analysis of Brown's efforts in Kansas and Virginia, and despite his role in certain violent episodes, it is highly unfair to blame him for perpetuating the theater of blood and brutality that was the United States in the 19th century. As the historical record actually shows, John Brown made every effort to conduct a campaign of minimalist force in Virginia, endeavoring to destroy the economy of slavery without massacre and insurrection. When initiation of that plan failed at Harper's Ferry in 1859, Brown happily went to the gallows to demonstrate his commitment to opposing slavery with every fiber of his being.

One must finally ask Mr. Bond if he would issue such a gratuitous, half-baked defense of Nat Turner, Gabriel (so-called Prosser), or Denmark Vesey--all black men who either used violence or intended to "perpetuate violence" in order to oppose slavery. If he would answer in the affirmative, what would the black community's reaction be toward such double-mindedness? But if he refused to apologize on behalf of blacks who either killed or intended to kill pro-slavery whites, then he would surely seem self-contradicted and perhaps even hypocritical for doing so on behalf of Brown, even if he were a perpetuator of violence.

John Brown could do without the shabby apologetics of Julian Bond. His timid remarks are a far cry from that of Frederick Douglass who, at Harper's Ferry in 1881, emphatically declared that when "John Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared. The time for compromises was gone – the armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union – and the clash of arms was at hand. The South staked all upon getting possession of the Federal Government, and failing to do that, drew the sword of rebellion and thus made her own, and not Brown's, the lost cause of the century."