For some reason John Brown is back in the news of late with a specific focus on his continuing legacy as well as the pikes or spears that were to be used during the raid. For an excellent discussion of Brown’s life as well as the significance of the Harpers Ferry Raid I highly recommend viewing a webcast from the Virginia Sesquicentennial’s recent “Signature Conference” held at the University of Richmond. You can view all the sessions, including the session on Brown (you need to download Real Player), which featured historians David Blight, Manisha Sinha, Clarence Walker, and David Reynolds whose recent biography of Brown is well worth reading. One of the most interesting aspects of the discussion is their emphasis on placing Brown’s life and motivation (Calvinism) as well as his actions in the context of black rebellion in the United States and especially in the Caribbean. The emphasis on the latter led me to read Edward B. Rugemer’s recent book, The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2008), which I highly recommend.
John Brown’s Pikes
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"In this stunning and well-researched book, Kevin Levin catches the new waves of the study of memory, black soldiers, and the darker underside of the Civil War as well as anyone has... Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation."
David Blight, Author of Race and Reunion
Next post: Ron Maxwell’s Arlington Speech