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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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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

"What Would We Have Done?" Norman Thomas Marshall Remembers John Brown's 112th Birthday
Norman Thomas Marshall,
Portrayer of John Brown

Dear Friend,

May 9th, 2012, is the two-hundred and twelfth anniversary of the birth of John Brown.

Here is a quotation from Fire from the Midst of You: A Religious Life of John Brown by Louis A DeCaro, Jr.:
"Thomas W. Higginson----recalled visiting a slave market in St. Louis Missouri.  (He) entered at the moment three sisters were put up for sale--'nice little mulatto girls in neat pink calico frocks suggesting a careful mother'--the eldest being but twelve years old.   The prospective buyer  waived the opportunity to strip the girls for inspection and seemed to want to befriend the human flesh he was about to purchase.  'Don’t you want to come home with me?' the white man asked the sorrowful twelve-year old.  Bursting into tears, she replied, 'I want to stay with my mother.' 
At this point, Higginson recalled, the dealer sent the children away and completed the business deal with not the slightest sign of pity.   It struck Higginson that the whole transaction was conducted in  a 'perfectly matter-of-fact' manner, and even with no apparent violence, rape or cruelty, the whole scene seemed all the more terrible.  'If these were the commonplaces of the institution,' Higginson wondered, 'what must its exceptional tragedies be?'”
What would we have done if we had been a witness to such a scene?  In the face of this great national crime, what would we have done?  John Brown said it must stop and it must stop sooner rather than later.
Marshall as Brown in "Trumpet of Freedom"

John Brown like Richard III has been terribly maligned in historical memory.  Both of their stories were deliberately misrepresented to accomodate advantages to the politically powerful.  Richard III had the misfortune of having had Shakespeare write a screed justifying his murder by the Earl of Richmond, Elizabeth the First’s grandfather so as to make the case for her legitimacy to the throne.

John Brown similarly has had his reputation sullied by the Confederate Lost Cause propagandists like Douglas S. Freeman and Robert Penn Warren and several more generations of historians who were not astute enough to look carefully at the sources.

We are fortunate to have the most astute biographers who are carefully re-examining the record and creating works that are elevating the “Old Man” to a proper position of respect for the  awe-inspiring actions that he took to further the cause of justice for the poor and the despised of the world.

Norman Thomas Marshall, the portrayer of John Brown

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