John Brown Today is a podcast devoted to historical and contemporary themes relating to the abolitionist John Brown (1800-59), the controversial antislavery and antiracist freedom fighter. John Brown Today is hosted by Louis A. DeCaro Jr., a Brown biographer and researcher, the most prolific author on the John Brown theme since the abolitionist's death in 1859. John Brown Today engages a range of themes from history and biography to popular culture and other contemporary themes.
Light vs. Lies: The Real History of the Harper's Ferry Raid (with a Jan. 6th epilogue!)
In this episode, Lou revisits the Harper's Ferry raid of October 16, 1859, presents some preliminary thoughts on the contemporary perspective and then addresses a number of key points, along with a "January 6th" epilogue. The key points addressed in this extended episode are:
1. What basically characterized John Brown’s earlier Virginia plan and how it was changed in the 1850s, and why it was changed?
2. Why did John Brown choose to capture the federal armory and what did he intend when he did so?
3. To what degree did John Brown’s movement in Harper’s Ferry attract local enslaved people?
4. Was the raid on Harper’s Ferry an ill-fated venture that had no real chance of success?
5. In what ways has our understanding of the HF raid been misshapen, and how has it come down to us?
John Brown's truth is ours too. He did his part. Let's do our part too and save our nation from rightwing rebellion, which is the spirit of the slaveholders.
My John Brown Holiday Notes
In this episode Lou tries to answer the question, "Did John Brown celebrate Christmas?" This leads us to consider both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the antebellum era, what they represented to the North and South, respectively, and their social significance. Then, taking a quick tour of the archives, Lou pulls some different vignettes relating John Brown to Christmas.
Merry Christmas to those who observe the day, and happy holidays and happy new year to all!
A Text For the Nation: John Brown Beyond Biography
In this episode, Lou reflects upon the 1859 words of abolitionist orator Wendell Phillips, that the hanged John Brown had "given this nation a text." Lou considers how W.E.B. DuBois used the abolitionist as a text in writing his biography John Brown in 1909. Almost seventy years later, the leftist historian Albert Fried likewise did so in the writing of his historiographic memoir, John Brown's Journey (1978). Both writers demonstrated that Wendell Phillips was correct: Brown has given this nation a text, a fact that will not lessen in time.
John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Moral Core: A Juxtaposition for December 2
In this episode, Lou reflects upon the "moral core" of Brown and Lincoln in juxtaposition. Mainly considering how these men are viewed in terms of religion and in regard to their roles in human liberation, Lou argues that Lincoln is neither a prophet nor a martyr, and that he is bested in both categories by Brown.
This episode is dedicated to the annual remembrance of John Brown's hanging on December 2, 1859.
Explaining John Brown Correctly: A Conversation with Dan Morrison
In this episode Lou talks with Dan Morrison, a journalist and artist who lives in Torrington, Connecticut, the birthplace of John Brown. The basis of the conversation is Dan's recent explainer video, "Was John Brown a Terrorist?" an Explainer Video which succinctly and effectively addresses a theme that so many have distorted and skewed. Dan is a listener of John Brown Today but he does a lot of thinking about the Old Man on his own, and he's working on a project that will interest JBT listeners for sure. This episode closes with Dan's Explainer Video soundtrack, but you will be able to view and listen to it on YouTube here:
Mary Ellen Pleasant and "The Rule of Credible Evidence"
In this episode, Lou discusses the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, an African American woman who has been lauded for her civil rights activities in 19th century San Francisco, but--more important to this podcast--claimed to have been a confidant and supporter of John Brown. Along the way, Lou shares a number of examples of stories and reports that connected claimants to the John Brown story, some of them obviously false, others arguably true, and some in-between, with a mix of the credible and interesting with fabrications and farce. This is especially the case with Mary Ellen Pleasant whose claims, made before she died in 1904, to having aided and supported John Brown, particularly with a gift of $30,000, have been renewed in the press in recent years, winning Pleasant a place in Black History as an ally of John Brown. Unfortunately, whatever her legacy entailed, her place in the John Brown story is quite questionable, and in "Mary Ellen Pleasant and 'The Rule of Credible Evidence,'" Lou will explain why.
PS Happy 162nd Harper's Ferry Raid Anniversary, Browniacs!
Very interesting and well-produced
DeCaro does a wonderful job of presenting the historical John Brown to listeners through primary and secondary sources. He’s comprehensive in his treatment, yet demonstrates the rare ability to stay concise and provide an approachable overview.
As someone engaged in graduate fields of theology and biblical studies, I was interested to learn more about Brown’s post-millenarian context within the Reformed tradition. DeCaro did not disappoint. Again, he managed to introduce the listener to a complex history (and theology) in an accessible way.
But in my view, what sets this podcast apart is his presentation of the “cultural John Brown.” He applies the historical-critical method to dispel conventional misconceptions and historical misrepresentations of Brown. I’d highly recommend the very first episode as well as the episode entitled, “All Their John Browns,” in season 2 episode 3.
This podcast was very interesting and well-produced. I look forward to reading DeCaro’s books and recommended sources.
It’s like taking a class but you don’t have to take an exam and you can study further on your own. Does anyone remember the childhood song called John Brown Had a lLittle Indian? I wonder where that title and the lyrics came from.
It would be nice if you did a podcast on each raider and life at the Kennedy farm