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Many people in the United States, especially (but not exclusively) white people, tend to think of John Brown as someone who was "crazy." In this episode, Lou surveys what he calls a historical "thread" regarding the alleged insanity of Brown.  Beginning with affidavits filed in Virginia in 1859 in an attempt by friends and relatives in Ohio to spare Brown's life, as well as Republican insanity rhetoric designed to dissociate Brown from their party, it is clear there is otherwise no historical evidence for the insanity notion. In the twentieth century, however, academics promoted Brown's alleged insanity, and the notion was disseminated in popular culture.   In the late twentieth century, although scholars began to back away from this unwarranted notion, it was replaced by notions of Brown being manic. Lou traces this thread through three publications by Robert McGlone, Kenneth Carroll, and Tony Horwitz. He also suggests secular inclinations among scholars make them inclined to attribute mental instability to Brown's fundamentalist religious beliefs. Guest music: "Climbing" by Reed MathisHey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou presents a narrative written by John Brown's young lawyer, George H. Hoyt, written only a few years after the abolitionist's hanging.  Hoyt went to join John Brown in Charlestown, Virginia (today West Va.) and support his lawyers, but really went as a spy for Brown's supporters in the North who wanted to launch a rescue. But not only was the rescue impossible by the time that Hoyt arrived in Virginia, but Brown did not want to escape.  Hoyt thus became part of the drama of Brown's trial and last days, a story that can be found in more detail in Lou's book, Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia (2015).The Hoyt narrative is provided in ten short segments that somewhat follow the serialized narrative that appeared in the Leavenworth Conservative in 1867, as well as a kind of epilogue that Hoyt published in The Kansas Weekly Tribune in 1870.  The narrative, written from a firsthand eyewitness reveals a great deal about Brown's trial and the supposed "fair trial" that he received at the hands of a court dominated by slaveholders and guided by Sen. James Mason of Virginia, the architect of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and one of the ringleaders of the slaveholders' betrayal that would follow in 1861 following Lincoln's election.Guest music: "Bittersweet" by Silent PartnerHey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou responds to the comments of a thoughtful but critical podcast listener who has well-stated reasons for asking, "why John Brown?"  The question is a good one and Lou starts with personal and scholarly reflections on a range of views of Brown that range from anti-Brown to non-admirer.  Then, Lou shares the podcast listener's comments and attempts to make a response that hopefully is helpful to this friendly critic as well as others with similar thoughts on the abolitionist and his legacy.  Guest music:"Climbing" by Reed Mathis"American Frontiers" by Aaron KennyHey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou does a deep dive into the story of William Leeman, the youngest of John Brown's Harper's Ferry raiders.  From his origins in Maine to Kansas and his enlistment in John Brown's army, we look at the story of a young man with feet of iron and clay, whose death in Virginia in 1859 resonates with the racist gun violence and mass killings that grip our nation today.   A special note of thanks is due H. Scott Wolfe, for providing his extensive research on Leeman, the work of many years and many miles.  This episode is produced in his honor.Guest music by madIRFAN from PixabayHey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou is interviewed by Dr. Chris Dost, biblical scholar and pastor of the Northville Baptist Church in New Milford, Connecticut.  This audio is excerpted from an interview recorded on July 10, 2021.Closing tune: "Amazing Grace" by Cooper CannellHey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou provides a slice of biography, zooming in on John Brown's personal and economic challenges as a frontier entrepreneur and his often forgotten comeback in the early 1840s. While overlooked by unstudied and prejudiced scholars, Brown actually bounced back in the mid-1840s and distinguished himself as one of the leading experts on fine sheep and wool. Looking at Brown's attempt to intervene on behalf of wool growers in the 1840s, we get further insight into Brown's inclination to defend the underdog.  This observation provides a way to revisit the bias and prejudice that Brown's legacy has long faced both from the academy and Hollywood--a bias that we are still pushing back against today. The story of John Brown is not complicated: Brown is very consistent, and it is no surprise that his inclination to defend the downcast and the vulnerable would be a theme that flows from wool to slavery.This episode provides a special interlude and conclusion with special music by The Westerlies, featuring their song, "Burden Laid Down."  Visit the Westerlies website at westerliesmusic.com.Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
To begin the fourth cycle of John Brown Today, Lou reflects upon the life and contribution of Brown biographer, Oswald Garrison Villard, whose life of John Brown was first published in 1910. As Lou argues, Villard did a great favor to historical study and John Brown students by commissioning extensive research for his work--research that he could not even utilize to the fullest extent himself. On the other hand, Villard depreciated John Brown as a restless and principled murderer, used his economic clout to the disadvantage of W.E.B. DuBois, another biographer of Brown, and fueled more hostile biographies that followed.  As Lou discusses in this episode, Villard did so for reasons both ideological and familial. Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou reflects upon the critical thesis of the late Gabriel Moran (1935-2021), who indefatigably pointed out  the distinction between "America" as a dream (and as a vast continental land mass) and The United States of America as a nation. Following Gabriel's lead, Lou reflects upon the linguistic and political challenges of confusing the two, something that is done as much by rightwingers as by critics of racism, including such eminent voices as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. What is the significance of confusing the USA with "America"? Lou explores this theme, observing that, interestingly, John Brown typically did not make this error.  He was quite aware that the problem with slavery and racism against which he struggled was a problem of The United States of America.  This episode is dedicated to the memory of Gabriel Moran, teacher and friend.--LDIf you're interested in exploring Gabriel's thinking about "America," see his book, America in the United States and the United States in America: A Philosophical Essay (iUniverse, 2018).Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou revisits the Harper's Ferry raid of October 16, 1859, presents some preliminary thoughts on the contemporary perspective and then addresses a number of key points, along with a "January 6th" epilogue.  The key points addressed in this extended episode are:1. What basically characterized John Brown’s earlier Virginia plan and how it was changed in the 1850s, and why it was changed?2. Why did John Brown choose to capture the federal armory and what did he intend when he did so?3. To what degree did John Brown’s movement in Harper’s Ferry attract local enslaved people?4. Was the raid on Harper’s Ferry an ill-fated venture that had no real chance of success?5. In what ways has our understanding of the HF raid been misshapen, and how has it  come down to us?John Brown's truth is ours too.  He did his part. Let's do our part too and save our nation from rightwing rebellion, which is the spirit of the slaveholders. Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode Lou tries to answer the question, "Did John Brown celebrate Christmas?"  This leads us to consider both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the antebellum era, what they represented to the North and South, respectively, and their social significance. Then, taking a quick tour of the archives, Lou pulls some different vignettes relating John Brown to Christmas.Merry Christmas to those who observe the day, and happy holidays and happy new year to all!Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou reflects upon the 1859 words of abolitionist orator Wendell Phillips, that the hanged John Brown had "given this nation a text."  Lou considers how W.E.B. DuBois used the abolitionist as a text in writing his biography John Brown in 1909. Almost seventy years later, the leftist historian Albert Fried  likewise did so in the writing of his historiographic memoir, John Brown's Journey (1978). Both writers demonstrated that Wendell Phillips was correct:  Brown has given this nation a text, a fact that will not lessen in time.Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou reflects upon the "moral core" of Brown and Lincoln in juxtaposition. Mainly considering how these men are viewed in terms of religion and in regard to their roles in human liberation, Lou argues that Lincoln is neither a prophet nor a martyr, and that he is bested in both categories by Brown.  This episode is dedicated to the annual remembrance of John Brown's hanging on December 2, 1859.  Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode Lou talks with Dan Morrison, a journalist and artist who lives in Torrington, Connecticut, the birthplace of John Brown.  The basis of the conversation is Dan's recent explainer video, "Was John Brown a Terrorist?" an Explainer Video which succinctly and effectively addresses a theme that so many have distorted and skewed.  Dan is a listener of John Brown Today but he does a lot of thinking about the Old Man on his own, and he's working on a project that will interest JBT listeners for sure.  This episode closes with Dan's Explainer Video soundtrack, but you will be able to view and listen to it on YouTube here:https://youtu.be/ysIo0yyHxBc.Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou discusses the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, an African American woman who has been lauded for her civil rights activities in 19th century San Francisco, but--more important to this podcast--claimed to have been a confidant and supporter of John Brown. Along the way, Lou shares a number of examples of stories and reports that connected claimants to the John Brown story, some of them obviously false, others arguably true, and some in-between, with a mix of the credible and interesting with fabrications and farce.  This is especially the case with Mary Ellen Pleasant whose claims, made before she died in 1904, to having aided and supported John Brown, particularly with a gift of $30,000, have been renewed in the press in recent years, winning Pleasant a place in Black History as an ally of John Brown.  Unfortunately, whatever her legacy entailed, her place in the John Brown story is quite questionable, and in "Mary Ellen Pleasant and 'The Rule of Credible Evidence,'" Lou will explain why.PS Happy 162nd  Harper's Ferry Raid Anniversary, Browniacs! Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou continues his conversation with friend Ian Barford, the actor and  Brown-Douglass researcher. In this episode we discuss Ian's project on John Brown's relationship with Frederick Douglass and other black leaders of that period, including the impact that black nationalist archetypes had on Brown's thinking, and in turn how he responded in support of black self-determination. There is also some musing in regard to a trip to Kansas this past summer which they shared, both doing archive work as well as visiting historic sites. If you're interested, you can read an article and see pictures from that Kansas trip on the John Brown Today blog by clicking on this link.Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
Welcome back to John Brown Today! In this episode, the first of two parts, I'm talking with my friend, Ian Barford, a Tony-nominated actor who is also a John Brown enthusiast and, in his own right, quite a scholar and researcher. For some years now, Ian has been working artistically on the theme of John Brown and Frederick Douglass, and I'm excited for the direction that his work has taken. This summer, Ian and I traveled around Kansas, visiting historical sites and then the beautiful Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, where I dug in for several days of solid research.  If you're interested, here's a link to the John Brown Today blog, where you'll find an article with pictures and links from our Kansas trip.I'm sure you'll enjoy our conversation and reflections on John Brown.  Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou reflects on the text of John Brown's 1859 document, "A Declaration of Liberty," which was intended as the official pronouncement of the liberation movement and "guerrilla" state that he intended to establish in the South after staging a political demonstration at Harper's Ferry.  After his movement failed and Brown was taken at Harper's Ferry, his documents were seized and preserved by Virginia authorities, including "A Declaration of Liberty."  Also included is a short response to comments made about Brown during a radio interview by Kate Masur, the author of the new book, Until Justice Be Done: America's First Civil Rights Movement From the Revolution to Reconstruction.  The entire interview, recorded on June 15, 2021 on KPFA 94.1 Radio, is also linked here.   Listeners can view a digital copy of  "A  Declaration of Liberty" here.Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
Father and Son

Father and Son

2021-06-1742:40

In this special Father's Day episode, Lou reflects on the example and influence of Owen Brown (1771-1856), the father of abolitionist John Brown.  From Connecticut to the Ohio wilderness in the early 19th century, father and son Brown share a common religious faith and zeal for human rights and opposition to slavery.  Special attention is paid to John Brown's 1857 autobiographical sketch of youth, and Lou offers closing Father's Day wishes with a  special closing song, "Esperando (Waiting)" composed by Hagjae Lee and performed by Epainos on their sacred music CD, Hymn Vol. 1.Epainos is Hagjae Lee (piano), Soo Kang (oboe), and Jiwon Kim (violin)For more info. on Epainos, check them out here:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT8TQ03T0zJlpg6SDeL0brghttp://www.epainosmusic.comhttps://open.spotify.com/artist/7qz9HTqZp9aKqkZtbPEbhq?si=ugXlHLw1R8iUyukIP9MFhw&dl_branch=1Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this John Brown birthday episode, Lou presents a reflection upon the "reunion" meeting at John Brown's farm that took place on July 4, 1860,  before the Brown family sold the property and relocated to California three years later.  Based on an account published in William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator (July 27, 1860),  Lou reflects on this meeting--attended by as many as one thousand people--its leading spirits, its family significance, even the fact that Brown had both a grave mound and a grave marker.   As Lou points out, when this meeting took place,  only Brown was interred at the farm; the bodies of his sons Oliver and Watson, along with the bodies of many of his other Harper's Ferry raiders were not interred at the farm until  the last twenty years of the nineteenth century.  The July 4th 1860 meeting is a weighty and moving historical "snapshot"--the picture of a nation on the brink of civil conflict, a nation weighed down by injustice and the suffering of black millions at the hands of white supremacy, and the mediocrity of most of white society, including "moderate" anti-slavery people.  Quite in contrast the abolitionists stand out, and yet themselves are divided between pacifist "moral suasionists," and political abolitionists--militants who called for violence, and the significance of John Brown, buried beneath the fresh mound at North Elba, NY.   Yet, because of the ongoing struggle against racism, somehow the story of John Brown--in life and death--remains significant today, as it was in 1860.  This episode is introduced and closed by the wonderful song, "All the Brave Young Men," written and performed by Greg Artzner and Terry Leonino, known as Magpie.  You can find this song on Magpie's CD, "The Civil War: Songs & Stories Untold."  Also see Magpie's website at Magpiemusic.com.Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
In this episode, Lou discusses the historical and cultural context of Charles Sheldon's 1910 poem, "God's Angry Men," which compares the biblical liberator Moses with John Brown. Opening with a reading of the poem by actor Norman Marshall, Lou revisits Sheldon as a clergyman in the "social gospel" tradition, and also features a couple rare vignettes of John Brown getting quite angry, and then traces the theme into the 20th century, featuring another so-called "angry man."Hey friends, click on this link to get your JOHN BROWN TODAY Podcast Mug!
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