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

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Historical Tidbit--
An 1858 Arkansas Insurrection?  And a Dig from the St. Louis News

Before I run off to teach my class, I thought I'd share this little tidbit taken from the New York Times, February 2, 1858, which relays reports about a possible slave insurrection in Arkansas, relayed to the Times from Chicago, including a report from the St. Louis News.  I will leave it up to the historians to follow up on the report itself--that is, to what extent this reported black liberation movement actually took place, or if it reflects the paranoia of "the slave power."   What is both interesting and amusing, however, is the News journalist's little dig that the individual making the report from Arkansas was named John Brown, "whose credibility is not increased by the fact" that he shared the same name of our man Brown. This was early 1858, and the abolitionist John Brown was back in Ohio at the time the Arkansas JB made his report, but the passing remark demonstrates the dent that Brown had already made on pro-slavery folks as a result of his guerilla activities.  Of course, Brown was plotting his own grand effort to "carry the war into Africa" at this time, but it should not surprise to know that others had made efforts to overthrow slave masters throughout the antebellum era, although many of these efforts were suppressed in the news.  It would not be so easy to suppress news of the Harper's Ferry raid, however, so the "slave power" had no choice but to tweak it the best that they could--most notably by saying that enslaved people did not support his effort in Virginia.  But we know better today.

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