296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 32 illus., notes, bibl., index
America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change
Finalist, 2012 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition
2010 C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize, Southern Historical Association
From his obsession with the founding principles of the United States to his cold-blooded killings in the battle over slavery's expansion, John Brown forced his countrymen to reckon with America's violent history, its checkered progress toward racial equality, and its resistance to substantive change. Tracing Brown's legacy through writers and artists like Thomas Hovenden, W. E. B. Du Bois, Robert Penn Warren, Jacob Lawrence, Kara Walker, and others, Blake Gilpin transforms Brown from an object of endless manipulation into a dynamic medium for contemporary beliefs about the process and purpose of the American republic.
Gilpin argues that the endless distortions of John Brown, misrepresentations of a man and a cause simultaneously noble and terrible, have only obscured our understanding of the past and loosened our grasp of the historical episodes that define America's struggles for racial equality. By showing Brown's central role in the relationship between the American past and the American present, Gilpin clarifies Brown's complex legacy and highlights his importance in the nation's ongoing struggle with the role of violence, the meaning of equality, and the intertwining paths these share with the process of change.
"[Gilpin's] analysis is pointed and pertinent. University students will especially profit from his resurrections of Brown."
"Gilpin's book is an outstanding contribution to the growing body of work on historical memory."
--American Historical Review
“Gilpin provides a compelling analysis of an important topic.”
--West Virginia History
“Another fascinating study of how Americans have considered violence and change through their memories of one man and one event. . . . An excellent book.”
--Journal of Southern History
"Gilpin's study of John Brown in American memory is a genuine masterpiece. The depth of the interpretation, the comprehensiveness of the research, the intellectual breadth of the narrative, and the lucidity of the prose make this a most outstanding work. The author has contributed enormously not just to our understanding of John Brown and his racial cause, but he has also thrown exceptional light on the cultural, racial, and political climates that altered "the Old Hero's" image in America over the course of fast-changing times."
--Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Richard J. Milbauer Emeritus Professor of History, University of Florida, and author of The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s
"John Brown has mesmerized and polarized Americans for 150 years, speaking in different tongues to black and white, North and South, left and right. Gilpin dissects both the man and the myth to show how clashing visions of race and reform have shaped memory of Brown in every era. Provocative and illuminating, this book should be read by anyone who cares about Brown, the legacy of slavery, and the use and abuse of history in America."
--Tony Horwitz, author of Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War
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