An authoritative new examination of John Brown and his deep impact on American history.Bancroft Prize-winning cultural historian David S. Reynolds presents an informative and richly considered new exploration of the paradox of a man steeped in the Bible but more than willing to kill for his abolitionist cause. Reynolds locates Brown within the currents of nineteenth-century life and compares him to modern terrorists, civil-rights activists, and freedom fighters. Ultimately, he finds neither a wild-eyed fanatic nor a Christ-like martyr, but a passionate opponent of racism so dedicated to eradicating slavery that he realized only blood could scour it from the country he loved. By stiffening the backbone of Northerners and showing Southerners there were those who would fight for their cause, he hastened the coming of the Civil War. This is a vivid and startling story of a man and an age on the verge of calamity.
About the Author
David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center and Baruch College of the City University of New York. He received his B.A. from Amherst College and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He has taught at Rutgers University, New York University, Barnard College, and Northwestern University. His Walt Whitman's America won the Bancroft Prize, the Ambassador Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Beneath the American Renaissance won Phi Beta Kappa's Christian Gauss.
“Almost every page forces you to think hard, and in new ways, about American violence, American history, and what used to be called the American character.” –The New Yorker“A rich, nuanced and exhaustively researched ‘life and times’ that positions the abolitionist firmly in the context of 19th-century American culture. . . . Impeccably written.” –San Francisco Chronicle“Splendidly written. . . . Reynolds is that rarest of authors who knows how to write well and who successfully presents a life-size image of Brown, warts and all.” –Denver Post
“The most complete word on Brown as man and myth. . . . Nobody knows more about American society and culture in the first two-thirds of the 19th century than Reynolds. . . . Vivid and convincing. . . . The best volume we now have on that incendiary figure.”–The Providence Journal“Absorbing.”–New York Times Book Review“ This well-researched book . . . peels away some of the extreme interpretations of Brown and offers a generally balanced and objective assessment of why he should matter.”–St. Louis Post-Dispatch“Great sensitivity, thorough research, and some marvelous narrative.”–Washington Post Book World“A rich, nuanced and exhaustively researched ‘life and times’ that positions the abolitionist firmly in the context of 19th century American culture . . . impeccably written.”–San Francisco Chronicle“A masterful exploration of a fascinating, flawed character and his cultural impact.”–Atlanta Journal-Constitution“Absorbing, well written and beautifully documented.”–The Nation