John Brown, Abolitionist

John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights

by David S. Reynolds

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 “A superb biography.” -Adam Gopnik

WINNER OF THE GUSTAVUS MYERS OUTSTANDING BOOK AWARD

WINNER OF THE KANSAS STATE BOOK AWARD

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE – OUTSTANDING BOOKS OF THE YEAR

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION-TOP PICKS OF THE YEAR

 

This brilliant biography of John Brown (1800-1859) brings to life the Puritan warrior who gripped slavery by the throat and triggered the Civil War.

When does principled resistance become anar¬chic brutality? How can a murderer be viewed as a heroic freedom fighter? The case of John Brown opens windows on these timely issues. Was Brown an insane criminal or a Christ-like martyr? A fore¬runner of Osama bin Laden or of Martin Luther King, Jr.? David S. Reynolds sorts through the tangled evidence and makes some surprising findings.

Reynolds demonstrates that Brown’s most violent acts—his slaughter of unarmed citizens in Kansas, his liberation of slaves in Missouri, and his dramatic raid, in October 1859, on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia—were inspired by the slave revolts, guerilla warfare, and revolutionary Chris¬tianity of the day. He shows us how Brown seized the nation’s attention, creating sudden unity in the North, where the Transcendentalists led die way in sanctifying Brown, and infuriating the South, where proslavery fire-eaters exploited the Harpers Ferry raid to whip up a secessionist frenzy. Reynolds recounts how Brown per¬meated politics and popular culture during die Civil War and beyond. He reveals the true depth of Brown’s achievement: not only did Brown spark die war that ended slavery, but he planted die seeds of the civil rights movement by making a pioneering demand for complete social and political equality for America’s ethnic minorities.

A deeply researched and vividly written cultural biography—a revelation of John Brown and his meaning for America.

Critical Praise for John Brown, Abolitionist :

“A superb biography that shows Brown was as radical an abolitionist as existed…Almost every page forces you to think hard, and in new ways, about American violence, American history, and what used to be called the American character.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

“Great sensitivity, thorough research, and some marvelous narrative.”
David Blight, Washington Post Book World

“One of the most compelling reads in antebellum history in the past several years” –New England Quarterly

“This fine book should immediately become the standard biographical account of John Brown.” —Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

“Absorbing, well written and beautifully documented.” —The Nation

“A rich, nuanced and exhaustively researched life and times that positions the abolitionist firmly in the context of 19th-century American culture. . . . Impeccably written.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Vivid and convincing. . . . The best volume we now have on that incendiary figure…Nobody knows more about American society and culture in the first two-thirds of the 19th century than Reynolds.” —The Providence Journal

“Splendidly written. . . . Reynolds is that rarest of authors who knows how to write well and who successfully presents a life-size image of Brown, warts and all.” —Denver Post

“A deep, thought-provoking and entertaining biography. A rich, challenging social and intellectual history of America on the brink of tragedy.”
San Jose Mercury News Sun

“Engrossing and timely, offering astute, thorough coverage of Americas premier iconoclast and the cultural stage upon which he played his role. “
Kirkus

 

Media Appearances for John Brown, Abolitionist :

 

Radio Interviews

David S. Reynolds interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air” about John Brown, Abolitionist: the Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil War

David S. Reynolds interviewed about John Brown, Abolitionist: the Man Who Killed slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil War, “The Diane Rehm Show”

David S. Reynolds interviewed by Leonard Lopate about John Brown, Abolitionist: the Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil War on WNYC Radio

Lectures

Lecture by David S. Reynolds at the New-York Historical Society on John Brown, Abolitionist: the Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil War

Podcasts

David S. Reynolds interviewed about John Brown, Abolitionist: the Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil War by Bryan Le Beau on “Talking History”

David S. Reynolds interviewed about John Brown, Abolitionist: the Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil War on “The Paula Gordon Show”

David S. Reynolds interviewed on Washingpost.newsweekinteractive about John Brown, Abolitionist: the Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil War