Few men in American history have been at once as glorified and maligned as John Brown. From his attack of the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859, as part of a scheme to free the slaves, Brown has been called a saint and sinner, rogue and redeemer, martyr and madman. Brown rebelled against the American government, and he murdered men in Kansas in order to end the murderous institution of slavery. He denounced war, but made war on his government in order to end an existing war for slavery.
This anthology, which presents Brown's writings and diverse responses to his life and raid, offers a lens through which to analyze these tensions and contradictions. Extensive introductions to every source offer a close reading of language and provide full historical and biographical background. An introduction to the book traces Brown's changing image across time - a "John Brown Cycle." An afterword considers the possible futures of the John Brown mythology.