Thursday, April 13, 2006

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2006: References on John Brown

Because I’m going to be talking about John Brown in a number of posts, I’m going to list the major sources I’m using here and link back to this post for convenience and brevity (the latter never one of my strong suits).

I will cite them this way to indicate the source and page number:  Villard; 170.

Online sources that I cite will be linked in the usual way.


John Brown  by W.E.B Du Bois (1909).  Du Bois was a founder of the NAACP and long-time editor of the African-American newspaper The Crisis.  He was a pioneering African-American scholar, known especially for his original research on the history of the slave trade.  Later in life, he joined the American Communist Party and was placed on its National Council, the official leadership body.  The 1962 edition of his John Brown (the edition I'm referencing) included some added comments in italics, supposedly written by Du Bois but sounding pretty much like stock Party boilerplate.  (I don’t say this to discredit the book in any way.  On the contrary, it is still recognized as solid scholarship and deserves to be judged on its own.)

John Brown, 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After (1910) by Oswald Garrison Villard.  Villard was also a founder of the NAACP and was a grandson of the pacifist antislavery activist and leader William Lloyd Garrison.

John Brown: The Making of a Martyr (1929) by Robert Penn Warren.  This was Warren's first book, written when he was 23.  It's story-telling is good, and he does seem to be careful of his facts.  But his viewpoint was decidedly hostile.  And he uss up pro-Confederate arguments in making judgments on Brown that he scarcely attempts to suport with arguments from the evidence.  The 1993 edition includes an introduction by C. Vann Woodward that is complimentary, amazingly so in light of the way the young Warren presented his judgments on Brown.  Merrill Peterson writes of Warren's book that it "exudes slurring innuendo about abolitionism".

To Purge This Land With Blood: A Biography of John Brown (1970) by Stephen Oates

The Legend of John Brown: A Biography and History(1973) by Richard Boyer

John Brown: The Legend Revisited (2002) by Merrill Peterson

John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War and Seeded Civil Rights (2005) by David Reynolds

Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown (2005), Peggy Russo and Paul Finkelman, eds.


“Days of Wrath” by James McPherson New York Review of Books 05/12/05 issue (behind subscription).

Homegrown Terrorist by Sean Wilentz The New Republic 10/16/05; issue dated 10/24/05).

An Index to Confederate "Heritage" Month 2006 postings is available.

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