Creating the John Brown Legend

Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, Child and Higginson in Defense of the Raid on Harpers Ferry

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About the Book

One of the triggering events of the Civil War helped divide a nation but also launched a cannonade of persuasive essays and propaganda. Early press reaction to John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry ranged from indignant horror in the South to stunned disbelief in the North. Brown’s supporters wielded great power with their pens: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Lydia Maria Child. This book explores the moment when literature and history collided and literature rewrote history. This volume features 30 photographs, maps, proclamations and broadsides and a detailed timeline of events surrounding the raid.

About the Author(s)

Janet Kemper Beck teaches English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and is a member of the Thoreau Society and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society.

Bibliographic Details

Janet Kemper Beck
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 214
Bibliographic Info: 30 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3345-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by Richard T. Gillespie      1

Preface      3

PART I: THE CATALYST: JOHN BROWN AND THE ASSAULT ON HARPERS FERRY

One: History’s Version      9

Two: John Brown      19

PART II: THE PLAYERS

Three: Ralph Waldo Emerson      29

Four: Henry David Thoreau      42

Five: Frederick Douglass      52

Six: Lydia Maria Child      63

Seven: Thomas Wentworth Higginson      81

PART III: THE VERBAL ASSAULT ON HARPERS FERRY

Eight: Literature’s Version      111

Nine: Epilogue      151

Timeline      165

Chapter Notes      173

Bibliography      191

Index      203

Book Reviews & Awards

“well-researched…logical, coherent and solid”—Civil War News; “a worthwhile introduction to Brown’s life”—The Journal of Southern History; “excellent achievement”—Oxford Journal; “significant contributions to our understanding of John Brown”—The Annuals of Iowa.