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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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Monday, February 15, 2016

John Brown in the News

Dennis Frye, Harper's Ferry Historian, Lecture, Dec. 5, 2015

On December 5, 2015, Dennis Frye, chief historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, presented a lecture, "John Brown and the Election of 1860," at Shepherd University's Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education, sponsored by the university's department of Civil War studies. Mr. Frye's lecture is available online on the website of C-SPAN3 here. (or see the full link below *)
Dennis Frye

"John Brown brought the topic of slavery into the parlors of every home in America. . . .  Geography no longer separated someone from the issue, and it became the topic of the day. John Brown not only spurred the discussion, but his actions spurred the South into secession."

"Our country would probably not be where it is today without John Brown. He was one of the most transformative figures in history."

Based on Mary Stortstrom, "John Brown history program to air on national TV."  Journal News [Martinsburg, West Va.], 13 Feb. 2016.


Mini-Series Published on Brown’s Early Life by Kansas Authority

Grady Atwater
Grady Atwater, the site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site in Osawatomie, Kansas, published a mini series on John Brown’s youth and early influences during January 2016.  The articles, published in the online version of The Miami County Republic (St. Joseph, Mo.) in the month of January are: “John Brown learned many of his beliefs from his parents” (6 Jan.); “John Brown’s mother had profound impact on his life” (13 Jan.); and “Experience as young boy helped shape John Brown’s ideology” (27 Jan.).

Links to Atwater articles:




Art Imitates Life Except, Apparently, When it Comes to Brown

In an article on Smithsonian.com dated January 27, historian and poet David C. Ward includes an interview with a poet and woodworker from the Harper's Ferry area named Steve Scafaldi, the winner of the 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poety Prize.  The article is typical of the misinformation and bias of many scholars and artists, such as Ward who begins the piece by drawing on the words of Sean Wilentz, a scholar whose bias against Brown is well known.
John Hendrix Illustration

Ward quotes poet Scafaldi:  “Many people in Virginia and West Virginia still see [Brown] more as a terrorist than a freedom fighter."  One of Scafaldi's poems, entitled "The Beams," explores Brown on the gallows, reflecting the poet's contaminated vision more than the historical record, typically fixated with Brown's "violence," which he imagines reflected in the dead abolitionist's eyes--“hard and wild/to see—like two slender crimson laser beams.”  Ward frames the Scafaldi piece further with a reference to Herman Melville's "Weird John Brown," the hackneyed conclusion that Brown was complex, and Scafaldi's conclusion that Brown “is still the wild ghost of that place.”  

Yawn.  Art imitates life except, except, all too often in the US, when it comes to John Brown.  Then it more or less imitates the miseducation of the artist.

Source: David C. Ward, "Can the Civil War still inspire today's poets?" Smithsonian.com (27 Jan. 2016).

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