Thursday, October 15, 2009

John Brown, conclusion

There seems to be a lot of John Brown in the news today – and since we sit on the edge of the 150th anniversary of the event, I thought maybe we should get back to our discussion. My apologizes for not getting this finished – something else stepped up and took its place on my importance list.

A recap – we’ve had a very good discussion on John Brown and his role in American history: was he a political activist, or was he a terrorist? I even placed an impromptu poll up on the blog, asking you what you thought. In this unscientific poll, most of you thought he was a terrorist. However, given that the majority of my readers are Southerners, that should be no surprise. Next, we looked at North Carolina’s reaction to John Brown’s Raid. Since the A. P. wire did not exist, local newspapers were forced to reprint what had appeared in other newspapers. Their own thoughts were often limited. Through the newspapers we examined, we find both disdain for the political party thought to have backed the attack (the “black Republicans”), and warnings regarding suspicious characters in local communities. There were even a few references to men being detained and tried. I was going to post next on the ties of North Carolina to the Raiders, namely that John A. Copeland, Jr., and Lewis S. Leary were both born free persons of color in North Carolina. Josh Howard did a good job with that, and if you have not yet seen it, you can read his article here.

As I sit and write this morning, a thought kind of sticks out above the others: just how is John Brown being taught in schools across North Carolina this week? Is he getting a mention at all? Or, are the upcoming dates just going to be something else that goes by largely unnoticed like so many of the others? Granted, it has been a while since I was in school (junior-senior high, at least). And while I do not really remember what the text said, I do remember the illustration. It was the one that I posted on the original John Brown post.

Ok, I took a break yesterday from writing this and did another informal survey. I posted a query on both my facebook and myspace accounts, asking people who were educators, students, or parents of students, if their schools were doing anything regarding the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s Raid. To say that the response was underwhelming would be an overstatement. For the few folks that did comment back, they knew of nothing going on at their schools.

So I want to propose this question: it the larger scheme of things, has John Brown been forgotten? Will there be anything in local newspapers this week to commemorate the event? Or, will there be any discourse at the local library, local community college, or public university about Brown’s role in history? Or, has the matter largely been replaced by other events? Probably not a fair question for a blog that deals with that period of history. We here all remember the actions of Brown, some of us with pride, some with disdain and contempt.

I guess I should apologize. I could (and probably should have) put together a program that examined the life of John Brown in one of two of the local venues that I mentioned above and I did not. The work on the 58th NCT book kept me distracted. I am going to start work today on some programs that look at the war itself and make sure those years are not forgotten.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michael, nice read with interesting and thought-provoking questions regarding John Brown. On a larger scale, via television, there have been numerous specials (again) about Abraham Lincoln and his assassination all week. Nothing new, just repeats.

Another subject rarely discussed: the Lost Colony in Brazil. There were thousands of disgruntled Confederates that relocated after the war.

I know that the said subject pales in comparison to the John Brown story, but it is worthy of at least one documentary. (Perhaps there is one, but I am unaware.)

While I will be in Brazil soon, I already know from my friends there that they have a huge festival annually regarding said colony. I have also been informed by one of my Brazilian friends that there are presently tens-of-thousands of Brazilians (not referring to the Brazilians stateside) that trace their lineage to our Confederate brethren. Now that is a lot of people!

Kindest Regards,
Matthew Parker