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ways i think the reaction of frederick douglass and john brown is really interesting in that frederick douglass was a little suspicious of the way that john brown speaks to me after all john brown does speak in the nineteen century language of the bible in a tree he has this kind of a very spiritual charismatic way of speaking i think douglas was certainly attracted by the charisma that john brown displayed in john brown's a tremendously charter charismatic character but by the same token i think frederick douglass was a little skeptical john browne in that he saw him as only realistic in some way she saw him as too idealistic in some ways i think there's a case to be made for the fact that frederick douglass may have seen john brown as idealizing the slave beyond reason i think in some ways frederick douglass had a more realistic view of what slavery did to people and john brown and i think and so in
some ways you could argue that frederick douglass or john brown is being a little too idealistic and to own a realistic art on some of these issues but there is no doubt that frederick douglass was taken with john brown effect at some point he expresses the notion that really he had to get away from john brown because he was becoming too influenced by john brennan made it look easy and that i think he was referring to the kind of charismatic holder john brown could exert over people as besso is at issue
nothing is real in the eighteen forties when brown first meets frederick douglas is overwhelmed by these presents a mean by that by this time frederick douglass is a salsa simple of the abolition movement he has accomplished in many many ways he's has never had formal education but he is by now educated himself too the point of being a an educated man be yawning the standards of the time a man who speaks with great force not only of emotion but force of intellect widely read and substantially traveled by them this is the man that really impresses john brown douglas is also
impressed by john brown he sees john browne as a person of great personal commitment a person who is willing to go beyond his personal interest an and even more than simply fighting against the institution of slavery he is fighting for human decency human dignity and human freedom i think douglas is very impressed by this there is a letter that he and john browne author co author to john brown's family and in his part of the letter frederick douglass writes to john brown's wife that this man is worthy of praise he is going to do great things he has an important place in the abolition movement this is i think evidence of the extent to which douglas saw john brown as a man of tremendous weight and
inspirational commitment tremendous commitment tremendous personal charisma fact at one point douglas's even concerned that john brown's charisma is taking hold at record lows himself john brown at one point because he feels a little overwhelmed by the idea by john brown's personality of this is what most people reported when they talk about their experience with john brown a man of penetrating personality an overwhelming crusan says a leader and i think that figures prominently everything that john brown does from then on the fact that he is able to bring people to his cause to lead them forward oh i miss the sticky brown so it's
basically he's working with or years it's given and i set that up yet when when john brown goes to north pole but he is going actually to survey plots of land that had been provided to free blacks and the son fugitives by jr smith the charts mrs very wealthy abolitionists and syracuse and he has purchased this land providing this land to black people and this real method in his madness here you know in the in new york there was a property requirements for voting couldn't vote alicia had waned well this was one of the ways that you could make blacks into voters that for now i should say this over because that said that a little bit rock says because it has not i'll start from the top john browne in north elbow is working with jared smith jr smith has is a very wealthy abolitionists from
syracuse was bought large tracks of land right outside of lake placid what is today lake placid new york and he is setting up these farms for free blacks or for some fugitives john brown is laying out these plots he's doing the surveying for these plots now jared smith has bought this land in in part for political reasons and this is the method to his madness starting in the eighteen twenties although property requirements for white males has been dropped in new york these property requirements are maintained for blacks so that by the time we get to the aching fifties in order for a black man to vote in new york state has gotta have landed well this is one of the ways it jared smith is making voters of many blacks in your steak is providing them with one and john brown is instrumental in this because he's laying out these plots of land that you
think is too easy living there he's establishing his family there is living in what essentially is becoming a black community and to socializing with those blacks as having him to his house for dinner and as one visitor remarked he is calling them mr amis is he is showing real respect for them as human beings which is unheard of in the militants in june so that what's happening in north album that is the establishment of this free black community and john brown's but as a patient in this establishment is helping to shape john brown's view of african american people and also his relationship and his reputation among african american pick brown is working we were so young is it
seasonal in north elbow what john brown is doing is not only laying out the plots of land for the use of free blacks were settling in this area what is essential becoming a black community but he is in large part a living in his black community his associate is socializing associating with black in this community there are those who remarked on the fact that he has real friends within this community friends if he treats with great respect using titles like sore undone mr and mrs when he addresses them this is something unheard of for a white man to be doing even into even in new york state in the middle of the nineteenth century i think that nadal book becomes the special place for john brown is a place that he calls home is a place for which he fully intends to return it is a place where he leaves his family north know is that as
a community that figures prominently in john brown's sense of self sense of place i think north over is an important location in the life of john brown we talked earlier about how it for what you're saying less you couldn't tell who were this on jobs creation and you know it's one of things important to remember historian get a clear view one of the things it's important to remember is that you could be an abolitionist without believing in racial equality and in fact most abolitionists we're looking or be asked on the notion of racial equality john brown in this
regard was i think remarkable because he is one of the abolitionists were the white abolitionists and you point to as having more than black acquaintances having real black friends treating blast the kind of respect that equals we'll use in their association with one another of frederick douglass sometimes remarked that abolitionists were not necessarily so committed to the slave won once a slave became free and two that you could tell the real abolitionists by looking at his association with black people after the sun went down there but the notion here is do people continue to associate with one another when the business of the day is not today's associated on a social bases john browne did there were a few other white abolitionists who didn't weigh more garrisoned it but the fact is that these remarkable people
because generally speaking white abolitionists stopped associating with black abolitionists at the end of the abolitionist workday but who were these really laugh at where they have a strong financial slavery was i'm issuing a nationwide institution but starting about eighteen hundred state after state in the north a ball actually sometimes the abolition was immediate sometimes it was gradual but that produced a growing body of free black people in places like new york city boston cincinnati in the large cities you had the concentration of these free black people into sizeable communities and these
communities developed a wide variety of institutions all kinds of associations everything needed for the human development and to address the needs that human beings have on a regular basis and so therefore families and choir is and drummer groups and churches obviously and fraternal organizations a variety of associations that filled out the structure of the free black community by the time the civil war about a half a million black people in the country were free most of those free blacks lived in urban settings whether those urban settings work in the large cities the north or in the large cities in the south and in some places in the south new orleans charleston baltimore washington dc you had substantial free black communities abut these black communities were really really import because nevada where they were located they became potential supportive agencies for the
abolitionist movement if you're a slave a skating one of the places you might very well head for the free black community these are people would take it when it does it is a place where you get lost in the crowd we could find people to provide for the necessities food shelter this this is where you went for assistance the free black community was really important to the slave and there were important ties between free blacks and slaves after all in a situation where you have four million slaves and a half a million free blacks could be almost impossible if you're a free black person not to have a friend relative a husband wife mother father in slavery and therefore you would have a personal commitment to the abolition of that institution who are
these three clashes a small world last year that the small group of blacks to grab a brown may have been working with were people who were likely to have come from lower new york new york city they were basically urban people many of them had been free for longer is a time in new york had abolish slavery finally in the mid eighteen twenties these were people who were trying to become reformers trying to use the farm as a stable base for the establishment support of the families and the fact that john brown was laying out these plots and that he was working with them to help them establish their farms becomes very important in their lives and what happens as a result is that we get a free black
community in north noble new york which is establish that john brown has a major role in helping to four the measure wouldn't you want to see the progression of you know i think it is safe to say but the eighteen fifties with a tremendously difficult period for all black people free and slave it opened with the passage of the fugitive slave law taking fifty this was the most harsh fugitive slave law ever passed this was a law which gave a person accused of being a fugitive no right of self defense they could not speak on their own behalf they had no right to jury trial no right to attorney this is a this is a law that made it possible for a
person to pick a black person free or slave off the street and say this is my slave and that person that black person had no right of self defense it also meant that any person in a northern state could he could be deputized on the spot they helped in the capture in return of a fugitive and impertinent the person refused that person could be fined and jailed this is a terribly oppressive law after the passage of this fugitive slave law in city after city means of free blacks took place in which people took the podium and vowed to resist the fugitive slave law to the death frederick douglass argues the way to make the fugitive slave law a dead letter is to make a few did slave catchers people in
boston said the streets of boston will run red with blood before the first wave is taken from our community and these are people who are really dedicated to resisting this law and things do not look good and especially they don't look good because now the federal government is starting to dissipate on the side of slavery and its worse we go through the kansas nebraska act there's the act which makes it possible for slavery to spread in a variety of places in the west that back in eighteen twenty with the missouri compromise slavery had been limited from and it really comes to a head at the end of this of the decade and eighteen fifty seven fugitive so it really moves to the point of crisis in eighteen fifty seven with the issuance of the dred scott decision that this is a decision that says
one dr scott will remain a slave even though he had lived much of his life outside of slate charcoal to black people have never been we were not given and could not be citizens of the united states and three that the federal government has no right to limit the spread of slavery i mean this is a major blow that the rising dramatically not only flights but a free black people as well that you cannot imagine how angry free blacks worked at hearing this decision issued by the chief justice of the supreme court ct rider be tony himself a southern illinois charles fletcher mona black abolitionist and boston addresses a crowd in philadelphia he says we all norwegians to a federal government that grinds us
under its iron heels and treats us like dogs the time has gone by for the black man speak of patriotism these people are terribly upset with what is becoming clearer as a federal assault on black freedom so that by the time of john brown by the time john browne starts to pose his plan of fermenting slave uprising for striking directly at the institution of slavery black people already we realize that by the middle of the eighteen fifties there are black military groups are being formed in philadelphia detroit in it's for boston cincinnati in a variety of places these military units are formed their drilling they are preparing for the war against slavery which they feel will evidently come so when john brown says i've got this plan the moving and slavery are lots of licenses yes i knew it was coming what i'm waiting for it to come it is interesting that bin john brown moves through the black community raising
money raising support he find substantial support and substantial money this is it the fugitive slave law he writes to stay away for free black person living in the north you have to understand what was like eighteen fifties open with the fugitive slave law which strips from a free person the right to claim freedom when charged being a slave the most harsh fugitive slave law ever passed the fugitive slave law it finds and jails anyone who will not assist and the catcher in return a fugitive slave and on the
heels of that the kansas nebraska act which essentially says that slavery is going to move beyond the boundaries of restriction which we had earlier laid out followed almost immediately by this decision by the supreme court and dred scott case in which the chief justices supreme court right to be tony says straightforwardly free black people can never be citizens of the united states slavery cannot be stopped it can spread almost indefinitely and in almost every corner of the land there is an interpretation of the dred scott decision which argues the dred scott decision made it possible for slavery to spray even into the free states these assaults on black freedom which come almost rapid fire one right after another
the growing anger within the black society the determination to resist lead to innovate in fifties establishment of black military companies set up for the express purpose of being ready when the blow against slavery is struck oh there's going to come to a shared understand that john brown and his plan to move against slavery this is something that resonates in the black community this is something that people had been expecting people had been praying for people have been preparing for so when john brown says i'm moving on harpers ferry that i'm moving into virginia and i am starting to equip slaves for uprising there are many in the black community who are awaiting the opportunity it's interesting cause then comes the question will become more didn't go with him well the fact is that i think that many people
who so his movement as one for which they have been waiting were not quite willing to take this step until they saw how it was going to work out one of the things that you learn as a black person in this country certainly the slave in this country in the nineteenth century is that you are watchful you anticipate but you were not overly optimistic i think it would've been very interesting to see how these free blacks might have reacted had the plan succeeded in its initial phases it might've been very interesting obviously the odds were tremendous i mean after all in order for john brown's plan to have succeeded john brown ultimately would've had to face the full force of american military a stout
it would've been very interesting to see how free blacks might've reacted had the initial phases been successful really going back to the world not only is their soil it's morning edition dr peter wright big problem with this issue well let's talk about let's talk about the expansion of slavery let's talk about this kansas as the contested ground where slavery and freedom meet in the precursor to the sort of a bomb
let me ask you this heavy talk want to know how much how much of your snow and talk about stephen a douglas to have to go through ottawa go a little the opening of the territory of kansas to slavery means that out of missouri comes pro slavery settlers determined that slavery is going to take hold take root in the kansas territory that slavery is going to be written into territorial regulations and ultimately when cannes become to state slavery is going to be written into the state's hostage by the same token out of new england out of new york state out of ohio com anti slavery forces just as determined that slavery is going to be outlawed from this new character it is the meaning of these opposing forces it is thickened tested ground on which this meeting take place but ultimately becomes of the precursor to the civil war you know there are
many who argued the civil war started in kansas bleeding cannes is no exaggeration i mean this was literally so where are all bloodied an extensive military campaigns are conducted it is within this context we have to understand john brown and his escapades in bleeding kansas says
American Experience
John Brown's Holy War
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Interview with historian James Horton, 3 of 5
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Martyr, madman, murderer, hero: John Brown remains one of history's most controversial and misunderstood figures. In the 1850s, he and his ragtag guerrilla group embarked on a righteous crusade against slavery that was based on religious faith -- yet carried out with shocking violence. His execution at Harpers Ferry sparked a chain of events that led to the Civil War. Horton talks about Frederick Douglass - thought John Brown charismatic but too idealistic, Douglass/Brown - impressed each other, Gerrit Smith - land for blacks to vote, John Brown in black community, North Elba - John Brown in black community, home, important place, Abolitionists - not all believed in racial equality, John Brown did friends, Free blacks - committed to abolition, helped escaping slaves, Fugitive Slave Law - no right of self defense, Douglass, Boston, Dred Scott - 3 points, Plan - blacks ready for war, black military groups elsewhere, Plan - blacks awaiting the opportunity, Kansas - contested territory precursor to Civil War
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition
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Chicago: “American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with historian James Horton, 3 of 5,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 21, 2024,
MLA: “American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with historian James Horton, 3 of 5.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 21, 2024. <>.
APA: American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with historian James Horton, 3 of 5. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from