Saturday, February 17, 2007

Reviewed: Reynolds on John Brown and Lemann on Redemption

Ari Kelman has a well-written review of two new books on abolitionist John Brown and the post-Civil War years, in the London Times Literary Supplement. The books are David S. Reynolds, JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST: The man who killed slavery, sparked the Civil War, and seeded civil rights (Vintage Books) and Nicholas Lemann, REDEMPTION: The last battle of the Civil War (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Kelman writes, in part,
Taken together...David S. Reynolds’s John Brown, Abolitionist: The man who killed slavery, sparked the Civil War, and seeded civil rights and Nicholas Lemann’s Redemption: The last battle of the Civil War suggest that Brown and the Redeemers may be more closely linked than historical memory allows. Both arose at moments when Evangelicals shaped politics and policy. In the antebellum era, abolitionists, fuelled by religious zeal, pushed the nation toward war. The Redeemers, though they interpreted Christianity and citizenship differently, were equally sure of their righteousness. They, too, cloaked ideology – visions of a racially pure state instead of Brown’s multiracial utopia – in Jesus’s humble raiment. Racial violence, moreover, perpetrated by slaveholders, some of whom later became Redeemers, drove Brown on his path to Harpers Ferry. And following the War, the Redeemers were outraged to see the South recast in an image that might have pleased John Brown.

For the rest, click here.

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