Thursday, December 3, 2009

John Brown's Story

I'm grateful for the coverage in NYT yesterday of the 150th anniversary of the death (by hanging) of the famous abolitionist John Brown.

I visited Harper's Ferry, W. Va., the sight of John Brown's famously short-lived slave rebellion (the photo displays the fire house where he was captured), for the first time two weeks ago. Harper's Ferry would stand alone on its own geographic merits by virtue of its striking location at the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. But it is history that is seeped in this place and makes it truly unique.

John Brown's raid on the Harper's Ferry armory is thought to be the major catalyst for the Civil War, a war that John Brown himself ultimately saw as inevitable.

Whether he is considered to be a "freedom martyr" or a "terrorist" in our contemporary world is inconsequential and, quite frankly, does not make for a very compelling discourse (as intended by The Times).

John Brown's story is about the junctures of history in this country. He represents the passion, the independence, the hope, and ultimately the violence that is the American story.

Let's leave John Brown's body where it lies. His story goes on.

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