My reading bug continues.
While almost done with Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation, I am now 30 pages into “John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights” by David S. Reynolds, which tracks the life of the deeply Puritan John Brown.
Brown, it goes without saying, was, not just years, but centuries ahead of his time. He was unequivocally for the meritorious cause of equal rights for all people in America, white and black, way back in the mid-19th century. The book recounts the moments before and after Brown and his cohorts’ ill-fated 21-man raid on Harpers Ferry. Reynolds, makes the case that Brown had misread a couple elements in his efforts to smash the engine of slavery. In particular, Brown
misread the slaves and sympathetic white among the locals, whom he expected to rally in masses to his side as soon as his raid on Harpers Ferry began. The blacks he liberated misread him, since, by most reports, few of them voluntarily joined him in the battle against the Virginia troops—a fact that may have contributed to the fatal delay on the part of Brown, who had expected ‘the bees to hive’ as soon as his liberation plan became known among the slaves.
This, of course, was unfortunate since Brown was just about the best and most anti-racist advocate black folks had at the time. Enslaved blacks probably had no way of knowing this, however, since darn near every white person they had encountered up to that point was either an outright racist or unwilling to advocate or unable to envision any kind of emancipation.
While some earlier biographers have painted Brown as a nut or fanatic, Reynolds seems to present a more even-handed view and culturally biographical look at the man who, singlehandedly was responsible for setting this trifecta in motion: killing slavery, igniting the American Civil War and planting the early seeds of civil rights.