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are you lonely without a jacket or with really cool this is said well it was it was an era brown serve childhood occurred in a narrow window ohio is regarded as the west and the wilderness an assassin and as a very young child left of the civilized the village's village torrington connecticut four for the wilderness lit out for the territory by going to ohio and i think it was probably pretty much as we mentioned abraham lincoln's childhood you know a log cabin in an area of forest that was being felt in order to work the plant to that year's crops are real hand to mouth poor tough grinding existence in which children die really a wise died in childbirth they were
replaced with another wife very difficult existence but another level to a minute i had to realize that this is so mean this is an ancient exist so this is the way human beings especially working men and women have lived for thousands and thousands of years in europe and then asia really across the world and so it so it isn't that difficult once you get to the physical ground of their life to look to start to enter the imagination to know when you realize that two years is probably something which is universal in an ancient and and leave the stories of the bible would resonate physical visceral way for for a brown and his family father brown and his brood in a way that they might not to resume quote for us we want less abstract for them a lot more concrete economy what am orson
and plagues in that droughts in and so forth in the death of children the religious nature but obviously maybe to talk about the connection until it was it was so strong somewhat more literal meaning it was i think he really heard the pieces were islands that the world together a bomb or scotch tape but i felt that for brown and not just for brown alone enough for him a necessity was our rear or unusual person in this context is in this context is daily life in an ongoing life and the life of the republic really was was not the life that was parallel to are explained by the bottle but was rather a
continuation of the bible it was as if it was the unwritten chapters of the bible and that the bible were open ended in and lead directly into for him a contemporary modern american athlete in the thirties forties and fifties and i don't think that was all that unusual in effect i think even today many christians american christians particularly feel that just as i think probably many israelis feel that too that the israelis feel that though that fact the leading a continuation of a biblical history and that there is no break between biblical history and contemporary history that was you can assert accept that and begin to grasp at enrichment then brown's christianity doesn't seem to see what mental illness you know it makes a certain kind of dramatic in a moral
sense to contextualize his christianity or i think a large part of the population sure absolutely and it wasn't just lucky it was a class specific either an end it was it is because he was raised in isolated rural environment i've been reading lately generals of all of the women in the late nineteenth century victorian gentleman and women from the mainland and their christian gentleman and women and down and yet their sense of love of christianity was all that radically different theologically refined are elaborated but the the sea and the idea of love the great circle and of hell and heaven we're awaiting you intend was carly christ the savior in
the sense of love of life on earth being essentially a test a moral test that that shape your ultimate destiny and i think that's perhaps the most important part of brown's belief system and the one that was not unique a peculiar to his iran or to assert his family it was incredibly widespread in and no european and north american record and had been for some hundreds of years after all full time period we're not live it is important to
you when imagining or trying to imagine how the world looked through people a hundred fifty or a hundred years ago you have to a racy intervening hundred years ago and as the difficult part so do when i started trying to grasp the world of john brennan the first thing i had to do was to realize he didn't know the civil war was coming and so he was operating in a can and a wholly different context than not we might present to him by trying to have to imagine our way back if you don't know the civil war is coming and you see the central government controlled by the slave parts you figure you're inclined to think it's much more likely that the north will succeed in the south and in the makes also every encounter over the issue of slavery the defining what because you don't know that the really defining what has come of the civil war and so kansas seems to
be the defining on harpers ferry anything that better roads or would look to be addressed that that would be the defining anything that rose and that and then that period that grew out of the conflict between the anti slavery the abolitionist and the pro slavery is i would do i would have that power and drama to add that would take over and consumers are just going to do think about how we respond today to an ongoing a theological crisis and political or our social it looks at every moment is so that's true the one that will really tell us the whole story we don't know saturday must read this prof absolutely innocent control the three branches of the government is in control of the young mechanic oh yeah i shouldn't just as israel says it agreed i should just agree with you
yes it is if you if you think of it from well from to john brown's point of view the self control the presidency controlled the congress and controlled judiciary and was expanding into the west sleigh powers were we're moving quickly into the old louisiana purchase territories and had dug plaza projects into the caribbean as well and there are plans afoot to invade cuba and that even a central america an x in and much as we have the pattern of texas after all of that time most texas was barely fifteen years ago and it's a short poem in and memory and it worked so why not do the same thing in latin america on and so forth and we can extend slavery into that part of the world as well actually look we look very bleak maybe just gone back to this that because i think you paint the picture of
class connection to which is better than before painting the picture of what the world he's walking on the land twitter also for bones i'm not sure what we were walking through yeah i think you could you can imagine to bros and you healthful brown biblical history and
contemporary history emerged as it were it is physical reality was not that different from the fiscal reality of the year the biblical characters of the biblical world spin it for his many ways his social political reality wasn't that radically different and if he himself felt as though i believe from the bottom of his bones that that his life on earth was meant to be lived as a test a moral test he couldn't help i think but but see himself as he's walking in biblical shoes sandals her know as he crosses north american wilderness back and forth between the adirondacks in kansas and so forth i think for him it was a visceral
daily experience that wasn't something that he was intellectual or our recent upon particularly and he was in a sense of a man who has those connections is for a different kind of man that his son says his son's aunt weeks in the same modern man they're from the fall away from most of their father's christianity of the older ones particularly and make the doubters they question themselves the question ruth brown i don't think did question trip he took the receive truth of the bible applied to the worlds surrounded didn't matter whether was united states constitution or um or crop failure point it directly but the thing i think we should be careful of is is is reading our own skepticism our own modern sensibility into the act and then and critiquing or judging it because that's accessibility simply
wasn't available to our sensibility was it was to a song are born in almost half a century later the only thing the cost to the age of the modern world and prayer was an agrarian man to man race without animals and crops in and seasons in returns movements and rhythms of the physical world i think we're so much more concrete for him than they were for his sons are certainly than they are for us today and this doesn't take you very far from the world of the bible we are tested too to read the story lies in history as if those lives were presented with the same choices and options as we have today and we've been fault them for not making the choices we think we would have made regarding in a race or
gender or power generally are or belief and so forth and i think that's the thing that has to have to shut that debt down if you're going to try to imagine the life of america an american man who lived at and forties and fifties and whose life was was focused on the burning issue of that day he didn't have the option so that we might have and so when we judge in iowa will review and we tend to think to have to judge and it's interesting and the most white americans today regard brown as a as a fanatic and and i think and then they start to work is well intended of course will concede that much but a well intended fanatic is a way of not take him seriously and i think we do that because we're thinking about him as if he had options that we might have to pay and that we know in the civil war was coming might not have been quite so
energetic and our opposition to slavery in his shoes but i didn't know that was coming through the options they were not but the media just went back to talk about oh and around the world of the volunteer ah and and what he says how it affected who he was and how effective john a little surprised by is just wasn't unexpected turn around just to come his father was it was a early look at his father was it was an early end and very clear headed abolitionist i think in an educator and he ventures but the
clear thinking in and seems to me to be imminently saying man something about just brown's childhood that's not much made up and i found once i got close to a shrew reading of this novel i found an important and that was the death of his mother at the age of eight it was passed over and most biographies rather quickly and yet he himself alone one the few occasions when he wrote about our talked about his childhood in public com pointed to that as the defining trauma of his youth and childhood and i think it was i think when a pound the ball is that free will might be different for a girl but when the boy loses his mother at that particular hsa eight nine preadolescent pre two percent not yet old enough to have separated really from her
loses his mother suddenly i think it can have enormous long ranging effects and and you do you begin to feel dealing with brown and intimate close ways as i did and i think anybody for what to come that there was driving him a kind of generalized rage not psychotic or a sociopathic rage but a deep psychological pain or that allowed him to ally himself as he did so far away and so unusually for a white man with the anger and resentment and sense of loss that an afghan american said it is a relationship with african americans is very interesting to make because it's so unusual for white abolitionists that he would be taken seriously and beef bibi friend why so many skeptical african americans like frederick douglass and harriet tubman song
is is really quiet interesting and i think you're feeling it also raises questions why did they trust him when they didn't trust others other well intended white abolitionists quite the same degree and i think that it was because he matched their anger and so i know for him it was an anger born out a social circumstances obviously he was a white man out with all the privileges of properties that go without an outside it must have come from some other deep psychological scars and i have a strong feeling that it came really from that loss of his mother hate to be had post hoc analysts here but but it just it seems to me to be is a place to go when you were trying to understand the the underpinnings of brown's character i think you have to go there more than to his father in the farthest was it was a man of great character and he obviously it's a set of standards a moral
and a behavioral standard city was the temperance man after all support that the brown the sun would do either have to reject out of hand i would have to adhere to and he chose to adhere to them and they were greatly useful to him in and can control a regular this behavior as he grew older i am but but the emotional turbulence and the and the energy that drove fela drove his application of those principles was far greater than anything is that drove his father in his application of those protests it's so for me the question and in exploring brown's character personalities silk it with an emotional turbulence that the energy that force comfort it didn't come from the bible really happening the terms for perhaps and vocabulary for may have come from the bible and it didn't come to strictly assembly from the political circumstances of his life came from and a deep emotional well and pinned him and i think we sense that when you get the more sense it when you look at his face
an end and all the accounts of brownie the intensity but what they often it's just that as a kind of charisma that really was a force in intensity that people applied the descriptions of him in the descriptions of came from some kind of a promotional over the furnace and more than a well selected for spring and there an antidote back over his childhood his youth and childhood the one thing i stumble over and says the death of his mother other than that it was a fairly typical childhood have someone of his class and background and margins to connecticut yankee origins of that was that that was a big one you know the story of the last
four years one is what do you believe this story and say that it's something that you might think that also helps us again is where does have you know equality when brown was asked a question as you as he often was i know where did his passion for justice for african americans come from or where its origins he needed to tell the story of his first wins twelve years old me and a black slave boy who was successfully as clever as i said and while he was being praised for his cleverness the boy was being beaten with a shovel and treated like a dog and he went back to that store in numerous times wrote about it
briefly in the county sent to a young admirer in the east polio a boy refer to i think what was true or not its details as he presented it as his seal its source we have what is true i don't know but i think he believed and that's almost enough i mean it was how he remembered he was a moment from the many moments of this passage shows that the that he was focused on that he remembered very particularly as having meaning in those terms as in his account of that though he does say it's a and that boy had no mother or father but god and it's the idea of the orphaned boy as he imagined that boy as an orphan and that's c and it was in a dead heat he he was a boy he identified with authority and the
support of the stories of its identification brown as a twelve or a white with the appraisers cleverness well the black boy who is just as clever as he has been alleged abused identifying with the abused boy in that story the structure of the story is such that you can't escape that and they discuss the boys being he's orphaned as the point of his description at least to that conclusion description lisa the conclusion so that that that reinforces what i was a little earlier about the loss of his mother his sense of being orphaned discusses brow was two his father over the years when they visited and correspondent and his father seems not to have been a person he quoted extensively are used in adult life as a measuring stick or are an authority in his life you seemed oddly distant from his father for a man who was a sneeze is
involved with an obsessed with his immediate family as brown was happening even his grandfather subway lugging that gravestone a lawyer from torrington connecticut north albany new york and i mean that was that was a big job just taste that it's a long distance to carry a gravestone you back if the toes that it like task is that kerry agrees to iraqi affair but now the other stories in the series john brown or taking you can then trying to say it comes the mother of these last fridge and there's that other early again the position you
know i think if you haven't great gift that was certainly not as a businessman but but it was as samantha shepherd a man who could care for animals who had a genius for apparently and he loved it or c the tenderness of these children describe it to anyone who are really bottomless on a search in this world the world of animal husbandry and he was he had an extraordinary tenderness and skill and knowledge he loved that ironically although he began his career as working for here's a tenor have felt i asked for but he was a great great shepherd and brought to it according to the description of his children and others a tender hearted this infection that he could really only really mustard towards human
beings you know the show well of course this is an ancient biblical roth who the rams right each really been a shepherd to me that the power of that image for brown i'm sure was once a quick very directly to her to its power in the bible both in the new and the old testament it begins with a brown and finance with with christ and i'm brown i'm sure felt that he was in a great tradition an end but as it were continuing pattern of appropriate and nobility behavior in relation to the family relation to the community at large one
that i think he strove for two to imagine herself into an antidote to live up to through it had a kind of custodial relationship to two human beings generally been into for his family and children specifically and also to the young men who followed him into battle that was so was it simply authoritative as custodial it was so it was more complex than simple with our patriarch with rt it was a nurturing kiri explaining protecting our relationship as well descriptions of brown out there in the plains of kansas with his men and can't send him out taking care of the analysts if they were asked if they were part of his flock of really quite touching and they are not consistent with the descriptions of him as a
spectacle time for pat year ago authority there is this other side is a man of immense contradictions that that fit together and i think in a way that is as powerfully moving if you can just step back a little bit and then and see them in the same place it on the one hand yes he was as authoritative pepe are golf figure in all those relations on the other hand he was also appearing in custodial and gentle sensitive and smart funny in his dealings with the plant isn't interested
American Experience
John Brown's Holy War
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Interview with author Russell Banks, 1 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. Banks talks about Early life - hand to mouth, tough existence, Early life - stories of Bible resonate, children die, Religion - Life of 1830s - 50s continuation of Bible, Religion - John Brown believed life a moral test, shaped destiny, Southern Power - think North more likely to secede, Pottawatomie - seems to be defining moment, Southern Power - expanding to West, Caribbean, etc. , "It looked bleak, it looked very bleak", Religion - Biblical & contemporary history merged, Religion - John Brown saw himself as walking in Biblical shoes, Sons - modern men, doubters, John Brown didn't question truth, Farmer - John Brown agrarian man, physical world, of Bible, Man of times - we judge him, Sanity - white Americans today regard John Brown as a fanatic, Owen/Death of John Brown's Mother, Death of Mother - important, John Brown said defining trauma, Personality - rage, identified w/ Blacks' sense of loss, Relationships w/Blacks - trusted him, matched anger, Personality - where did rage come from, Personality - charisma, intensity, emotional furnace, Slave Boy Story, Slave Boy Story true? enough that John Brown believed it, Slave Boy - as orphan, John Brown identifies, Slave Boy - equally clever, John Brown identifies as orphan, Shepherd - John Brown's gift, could care for animals, Shepherd - brought affection he rarely showed humans, Shepherd - link to the Bible (Abraham, Christ) ennobling, Shepherd - custodial relations, men part of his flock, Personality - contradiction authoritative/custodial
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 author Russell Banks, 1 of 5,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
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APA: American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with author Russell Banks, 1 of 5. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from