Monday, October 19, 2020
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
This pretty much says it all. Those who wish to argue from the "higher art" position in defense of the lunatic portrayal of John Brown by Ethan Hawke in the current SHOWTIME series, "The Good Lord Bird," would do well to consider this letter from Marty Brown, a direct descendent of the Abolitionist, which appears in the October 19th edition of The New Yorker.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
The story of John Brown's (1800–59) ill-fated raid on the Federal armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) is well known. However, the lives of his Black raiders are far less known than that of Brown and his white coconspirators. DeCaro (church history, Alliance Theological Seminary;
Freedom's Dawn) seeks to rescue the story of one Black raider, "Emperor" Shields Green from history's shadows. Any attempt to reconstruct his life can only be done provisionally. He was born near Charleston, SC, although his birth date and whether he was born free or enslaved is unknown. Much more is known about Green's life during his time with Brown, the raid, and his subsequent trial and execution. DeCaro does an excellent job interrogating the sources, and attempting to find the real Green among the racist stereotypes and language found in both Southern and Northern newspapers. What emerges is a portrait of a man willing to die if it meant an end to slavery. VERDICT: DeCaro has assembled fragments of Green's life from the historical record in a judicious and thoughtful biography. Readers interested in antebellum, African American, and Civil War history will enjoy this brief biography. —Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, Oh., in Library Journal reviews, October 2020.
Friday, October 02, 2020
I first met Larry Lawrence on May 1, 1999, when I made my first trip to the John Brown Farm, now a state historic site near Lake Placid, New York. I became reacquainted with him after I left the pastorate in Jersey City and relocated into Manhattan with my wife Michele in 2003. At some point afterward, I don't remember when exactly, I saw Larry again, and over the next fifteen years, I had the pleasure of meeting with him for breakfast or lunch to talk about John Brown, the struggle for justice, and anything related to current events and politics. Frequently, we also met with our dear friend, the actor Norman Marshall, the portrayer of John Brown in the play, "John Brown, Trumpet of Freedom."
I spent a good many accumulated hours with Larry, I must admit that I did not know that his actual name was Reuben Dennis Lawrence III. I knew him only as "Larry," and I suppose that's all that matters, because that was the man I knew as one of the most strident defenders of and advocates for John Brown's legacy. In 1989, Larry founded the The John Brown Society, which was an organization reflecting a left political commitment. Early on, Larry awarded gold and silver medals to African American activists and others who contributed to the legacy of the struggle for justice in cultural terms. Larry was one of the most historically knowledgeable and politically astute scholars that I have known, and he could easily have been a university professor given his vast knowledge of history and the politics of the left.
I miss Larry Lawrence, as will his family, associates, and the community of John Brown admirers who got to know him. He will not be replaced. We will just move on and acknowledge the large space that he left behind, reflecting the many years of his indefatigable devotion to the struggle for justice and the legacy of a man that Larry liked to call "Mr. John Brown." Larry liked the words of the nineteenth century abolitionist orator, Wendell Phillips, who eulogized John Brown in 1859. I quote them here as a double entendre, in honor of John Brown the abolitionist, and my friend Larry Lawrence:
"He sleeps in the blessings of the
crushed and the poor, and men believe
more firmly in virtue now that
such a man has lived."