"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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Friday, April 10, 2009

Jean Libby's Latest Book Reviews

Review : John Brown: The Man Who Lived; essays in honor of the Harper’s Ferry raid sesquicentennial 1859 – 2009.

Louis A. DeCaro, Jr.
ISBN 978-0-557-03519-9
Lulu Press $9.94

This book of essays is an appropriate immersion into the John Brown anniversary commemoration. Louis A. DeCaro, Jr., the author of the first full biography of John Brown in the 21st century: Fire from the Midst of You; a Religious Life of John Brown, NYU Press 2002 and John Brown, the Cost of Freedom, International Publishers 2007.

His particular genius is the study of Brown’s early years in Ohio , Pennsylvania , and Massachusetts . In so doing he places John Brown directly in his historical milieu. This historical placement is what is lacking in contemporary analyses and depictions, which DeCaro skillfully skewers in several historiographical essays on ‘Scientific historians’ of Brown and especially the characterization of John Brown as a terrorist in contemporary terms.

My research relationship with the author has spanned fifteen years of sharing, discussing on email, and occasional meeting, most notably at the commemoration of John Brown’s birth at North Elba in May 2000. Therefore it is with gratitude that I am honored with dedication of the book of essays. The preface is written by Alice Keesey Mecoy, a descendant of John and Mary Brown who is avidly researching and speaking about the family.

My favorite essay is “John Brown’s Steamers,” the travel method used for domestic and overseas travel in the late 1840s and 50s. As a wool merchant and farmer Brown traveled frequently, and found steamers a good way to concentrate and catch up on business and personal correspondence. This delightful essay includes drawings of the vessels such as the ‘ United States ’ on Lake Champlain and the ‘Cambria,’ on which Brown traveled to England in 1849.

If you want the wonderful story that Louis A. DeCaro has researched called “A Steamer of His Own” you will need to consult the book. It is, as James Baldwin put it, worth “the price of the ticket.”

Jean Libby, editor
Allies for Freedom

Review: People of the Underground Railroad; a Biographical Dictionary

Tom Calarco
ISBN 978-0-313-33924-0
Greenwood Press $75.00

Description: The Underground Railroad was perhaps the best example in U.S. history of blacks and whites working together for the common good. People of the Underground Railroad is the largest in-depth collection of profiles of those individuals involved in the spiriting of black slaves to freedom in the northern states and Canada beginning around 1800 and lasting to the early Civil War years. One hundred entries introduce people who had a significant role in the rescuing, harboring, or conducting of the fugitives--from abolitionists, evangelical ministers, Quakers, philanthropists, lawyers, judges, physicians, journalists, educators, to novelists, feminists, and barbers--as well as notable runaways. The selections are geographically representational of the broad railroad network. There is renewed interest in the Underground Railroad, exemplified by the new National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and energized scholarly inquiry. People of the Underground Railroad presents authoritative information gathered from the latest research and established sources, many of them from period publications. Designed for student research and general browsing, in-depth essay entries include further reading. Numerous sidebars complement the entries. A timeline, illustrations, and map help put the profiles into context.

LC Card Number: 2008019934
LCC Class: E450
Dewey Class: 973

Jean Libby’s review: People of the Underground Railroad; a Biographical Dictionary is an essential reference for historians, libraries, and Network to Freedom partners. The section on John Brown is detailed, precise, and definitive. Not only that, the writing throughout is interesting! Every time I pick it up and read one of the 100 profiles I learn something completely new – and know where and how to find it when I need it for my own research. The price of the ticket is high, but well worth it. Please recommend it to your public or school libraries for purchase.

John Michael Cummings’ debut novel
The Night I Freed John Brown
published by Philomel Books (Penguin Group)

Recommended by USA TODAY!
"...a blend of history and suspense."
April 19, 2009 – Author reading, “The Night I Freed John Brown”

Description: Harpers Ferry native John Michael Cummings will read from his nationally acclaimed debut novel.
Rave reviews by Kirkus Reviews, The Boston Globe, The Buffalo News, BookPage, and The Orange County Register, along with five award-winning literary magazines, including Mid-American Review, Black Warrior Review, and The Texas Review. Recommended by USA TODAY for Black History Month.
Time: Sunday 1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M.
Location: Harpers Ferry Park Bookshop - Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Contact Name: Harpers Ferry Historical Association
Contact Number: 304-535-6881

John's Panhandle-to-Panhandle West Virginia Book Tour:
Launch date: Apr 17
A 25-county, 75-stop, month-long book tour through the panhandles and upper-tier counties of wild wonderful West Virginia

These three good new books are consolidated with order links on the website www.atozproductions.com/AlliesforFreedom_Titles.html
Thank you, Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz for sending photographs of the graves of Ruth and Henry Thompson in Pasadena.
Thank you, Alice Keesey Mecoy for researching and sharing the information about your family.
Jean Libby, editor
Allies for Freedom

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