History, Research, and Current Themes

"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Did john brown boycott slave labor products?

 There is no record of Brown participating in a formal boycott of slave labor products, although there is an incident of him personally protesting the use of certain sacks that were being used by wool manufacturers because they were produced in the South by the labor of enslaved people. As a biographer of the man, I would assume that Brown would personally refuse to patronize any business that flagrantly supported slavery or sold slave labor products. However, he was not a joiner, so if there were organized boycotts at the time, it is unlikely that one would find his name on any such movement roster. Lastly, I do not know enough about the options that consumers had in the mid-19th century in regard to vital products, and what they did if, for example, the only cotton they could purchase was produced by slave labor. Today we have alternatives and substitutes as consumers if we object to certain products. Did the Brown family have alternatives when it came to cotton, for instance; and if they didn't, does that mean they grudgingly used cotton that was produced by slave labor? I more than suspect that John Brown would have deeply resented any product of slave labor, but I do not know enough about antebellum life and culture to that extent to say what alternatives were taken at the time.

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