tv [untitled] March 31, 2012 11:30pm-12:00am EDT
their campaigns were nothing like ours today, but at this stage lincoln is really a second or third tier candidate in the republican field. the raid does several things. first of all, it significantly tarnishes his opponents in the republican field, particularly william seward, the front-runner, who comes to be too closely aligned with the brown view of the universe. this is like 9/11. this raid hits the nation like a shock. people are scared, they're thinking war. and seward is someone who has made quite perceived as militant statements. sam chase gave money to brown, and here's lincoln, who then very deftly uses brown as a foil, really. he criticizes brown to position himself as the safe moderate choice in the republican field. here we have these quite out
there guys who are a little like brown. that's not what the republican party is about. we're not about taking on slavery in the states where it exists. we're not john browns. he talks about this quite explicitly in his famous union speech. he talks about john brown at length. so i think it contributes to getting the other nomination and the other effect it has is that it begins the furry in the south. we can't trust any northerner, so that steven douglas, who has sort of seemed the likely democratic nominee, who could unite north and south, the party is split. douglas is one nominee, and then another democratic nominee, breckenridge. and then a whole other party forms. when you have the november election, no for candidates in
the field and lincoln wins with less than 40% of the vote. if i had to guess i would say if you hadn't had the raid, probably douglas would have become president who was a northerner who was very conciliatory towards the south, and this whole war would have been deferred for at least another four years. and who knows. i mean, then any number of other scenarios could have unfolded. so that's just a guess. i mean, but it's a significant -- >> it's more than significant, and it's so compelling. because that, of course, you just unrolled that a little bit further, and suddenly you don't have an emancipation proclamation. you don't have, you know, exactly. what we're talking about here is so fascinating. >> you have no hallowed grounds. or different hallowed grounds. >> or different. we'd be in a different country.
we would be in a literally different country. so in that vain and i know that you have actually slept in -- >> that sounds kinkier than it is. . >> antietam is one of the many devastating battlefield sights. but it was because of antietam that lincoln was then then, if you will, free to release the emancipation proclamation. talk to us about the fact that -- that's just a stone's throw from harper's ferry, and it's three years but hundreds and thousands of lives in between. >> it's bizarre.
the story comes full circle in this essentially very small geographic area. you have brown at the kennedy farm invading harper's ferry in 1859. harper's ferry is a flash point and the civil war changes hands a dozen times. stonewall jackson takes harper's ferry a few days before, and that's why the battle happened. the union realizes lee has divided his army. they attack, and as a result of antietum, which is seven miles from the kennedy farm, lincoln issues the emancipation proclamation. so, you know, this incredible journey in our history all occurs in this very tight geographic area. i mean, it really is quite stunning. this is the irony while i was sort of, not bashing lyndon, but suggesting that he wasn't the great emancipator initially that people imagined. he was actually on the conservative end of the anti-slavery spectrum. and this comes through again
very much in his attitude towards brown. the great irony is that he eventually comes around to brown's position and that slavery -- this must become a war against slavery and ends up, you know, taking the south that begins to fulfill brown's mission but like brown becomes a martyr through the cause. here's a final strange twist in their connection. one of the odd things about the harper's ferry story is it's almost a casting call for the confederacy. they lead the troops in a counterattack against john brown, stonewall jackson turns up there. it's almost a prequel to "gods and generals" which was a prequel to "gettysburg." jefferson davis is leading the charge in congress.
but in the final twist it's at brown's hanging, one of the guards is john wilkes booth, who later writes about being quite inspired by brown or talks to his sister about it. she writes about it. she calls him the great man of the century. here's a man that took an act that changed the course of american history, and that's ultimately what john wilkes booth then does in assassinating lincoln. >> chill bumps. i got 'em. i hope you all do, too. when you read this book, you're going to get more, because i'm going to tell you something that you do so remarkably well, and that is these names, they're names on history book pages for most people. you actually open up their
hearts, their lives, their thoughts and fears to us. there are stories in here that are just astonishingly powerful, one of which is the story of african-american dangerfield newby, who was a freed black man who had his wife and six children? >> five or six. >> five or six children who were still enslaved, and he had raised $750 to buy their freedom. the master reneged.hat. this is something we do with our summer camp students and with our middle school students, is we make them go to harper's ferry as one of john bwn raiders. with dangerfield newby they have a coat with two notes. in one pocket is the actual letter you write about here from his wife saying husband come, come get us now. you can buy us now. come now. and in the other, of course, is
a note from john brown saying we must free the millions of enslaved. and the man is looking at it saying, which do i do? tell us the rest of that story. i think it's not known enough that this was among the many astonishing things about brown and his band. this was a biracial guerrilla band. in this tiny mountain hideout -- you should go to the kennedy farm. it's a little log cabin. it's like a little log cabin in waterford. you had 20 men and women crammed into this little hideout all that summer. you can imagine how tense and sweaty it was. they're all writing letters to their lovers and family, specially farewell letters because they know they might well die. among the letters are astonishing are from harriette newby in to the dangerfield.
most were illiterate obviously. it's unusually to have them illiterate and we have their letters. and he goes there really joins brown's band to rescue his wife and children. and the tragic part of it is he's the first of brown's band who is -- he's gunned down in the street in harper's ferry. his body is desecrated by angry whites. 50 miles short of his goal of rescuing harriet. and the virginians collected these letters that he had from harriet that appear to have been on his person and published them. that's how we have them. the governor of virginia published all the documents, and they didn't see any indictment of slavery in these letters. they just published them. you just read these letters that are heart-breaking saying, you know, come save me, dangerfield, because like many virginia slaves of that era, she was scared she was going to be sold to a gang labor plantation in the deep south, and that's exactly what happened. six months later she's sold to a
plantation in louisiana. you read these letters, and they're just heart-breaking. but we have them thanks to the state of virginia. >> you speak about the biracial nature of his band and also his support. he had influential african-americans and very influential white northern americans from emerson and thoreau. but the secret six, can you speak to that? who actually was funding this? >> brown was not a lone gunman. i think this is, again, a problem the way we remember him. we remember him as this possibly insane figure who this act was part of one man's disturbed imagination. in fact, this was a full-blown conspiracy. and just maybe your first point about his black support, he, unlike many abolitionists,
really sought black support and involvement. you know, really this was a white supremacist nation before the civil war north and south. whites regarded -- most whites regarded blacks as racially inferior, including lincoln who wanted freed blacks to be resold in africa and central america because they couldn't live as equals to whites, and he's an abolitionist. many were very kond sending. their view was blacks were too dossile to fight for freedom and leave it to us benevolent whites to care of this issue for you. brown completely rejected them. among those he saw support from was frederick douglas. he lived in douglas' home for a time. he meets with harriet tubman. he lived his believes in a quiet, astonishing way. as to the white support, the secret six, i believe one of my
favorite parts of the story in an area where there's a little room for humor, they were really par local radicals. they were very wealthy businessmen mostly in the boston area who funneled brown money and guns. they fed it to him at salons in new england and brown dines with thoreau and emerson. alcott calls brown the manliest man they've ever met. they're intoxicated by this. it's like the 1960s when you had wealthy folks in manhattan hosting black panthers and other radicals. in the end these people are not shall we say profiles in courage. when brown's raid goes bad and they're implicated, one of them is already overseas, three of
the others flee for canada. my favorite, garrett smith, checks himself into an insane asylum in new york to avoid prosecution where he's treated with cannabis and morphine and says he remembers nothing of the events of 1859, which might well have been true. so really only one of them, thomas higgenson sort of remains true to brown. but yes, he has broad support from very prominent people, so this isn't really just a, you know, small band of in secret. a lot of people knew about this. >> i have about 1,000 more questions, but i want to open this because we did invite you for a conversation. so allow us to take questions from the floor. >> my name is peter. i'm the architect at harper's ferry national park. >> one of my heroes. >> thank you for hosting this
event. i was with you in september of 2009 for the 150th, the trek from the kennedy farm. >> october. >> it was such a wonderful event. i have two questions. when can we do that again? when can the journey through hallowed ground encourage the parks service and other partners to do that once every five years or so? another question is, when are we going to put your book into a movie? >> on the night na brown did it in 1859 with his men it was wet and cold. so it didn't make for the most pleasant of hikes. but, you know, i found it very powerful. i was staying at a little motel outside harper's ferry, and we
finished this whole thing at about midnight. i was sort in the research phase of my book, but i ran back to my motel and i merely sort of typed out my sort of experiences that night blended with the history of what happened. that became the prologue of my book. aside from giving you materials, and there's other writers in the room, they put you in the right frame of mind. one of the hardest things about writing history is you're capturing the strajness of the past but also communicating to a contemporary audience. there was something about that nice, and the simple things. the steam coming off the horse as we, you know, walk -- marched in. the clop, the sounds. all of that just, i felt, maybe me able to write that scene in a way that otherwise from archive
value siech al search alone would have been more difficult. on your second question there are movies that allude to john brown, some pretty bad ones. "santa fe trail." he's too hot to handle. what do you do with brown? he's not a hollywood hero. here's a guy we would feel was on the right side of history except that he shed blood to achieve his aims. he's sort of a quintessential american with a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other. and that's -- i think he makes us very uncomfortable, and that's why i find hip fascinating, why i think he's worthy of more study, but i think he poses a challenge. it's a very dramatic story, particularly all the other characters, and there's much more romance in this story than i would have guessed going into it. brown's followers are almost all young men unmarried, and they're working it hard with the girls in the entire lead-up, you know.
we have their love letters and we have some wonderful romantic stories. but i think it's a great story, but i am not sure it fits an easy hollywood mold. it's like nat turner, another figure in our history there's never been a movie about that i know. >> want to go to tim? >> could you talk briefly about the true, organized military battles of the civil war that took place in kansas? >> okay. all right. yeah. in telling this story, i spent quite a bit a time in kansas because brown's career doesn't begin at harper's ferry. he really comes out of the closet so to speak in kansas, which in the mid 1850s which the front line in the war over whether slavery will expand to new western territories. i think what you're alluding to,
which is quite remarkable and surprised me and i think people outside of kansas and month aren't aware of is five years before the first battle of manasis you have northerners and southerners killing each other over slavery in kansas in open field combat with musket and cannon. these are small battles, not huge numbers of people involved. it really is a preview of the civil war. john brown is right in the middle of it. he's, you know -- he's one of the principal warriors in this really, i guess you would call it, a low grade conflict, maybe more like in iraq than a civil war. it really is to me a fascinating and not forgotten but not recognized nearly as much as it should be. >> i want neil keller. >> do you think john brown was -- do you think the bloodshed was necessary to end slavery?
>> for those who may -- >> you can count on neil to get right to the core. was john brown right and was bloodshed necessary? again, this is -- i'm not going to dodge that question, but i think this, to me, again, was one of the reasons i wanted to write about this. because john brown really kind of drives people crackers, even leading scholars. you read woodward or a great writer like robert penn warren, they go right off the rails, everyone wants to see he was a monster and madman or a muir tur and freedom fighter and here row. there's very little middle ground. it's a mistake to try to fit him into either box. what's so fascinating about him is he raises these really prickly questions. is violence justified in the
cause of justice? i think we would all agree he was right in recognizing not only slavery was the great moral wrong in the nation, but that we needed to address it and confront this issue. the fact that he dragged pro slavery settlers from their beds in kansas in the middle of the night and slaughtered them with broad swords. there is to way to feel all one way or all the other about john brown. there are many people that do. i personally am not able to do that. i am a human being. he is an immensely complex figure and the years i spent researching writers and one minute, i wouldn't say i love him, he is not a warm and cuddly guy. i would respect and admire him and another moment i would think how could you do this? again, that's part of what i find really compelling about him, but i am just not prepared to say all right, all wrong, you
know, had to be this way or not. >> judith. >> in the context of the journey from slavery to abolition, you mentioned several things, the northern. [ inaudible ] the northern abolitionists. slavery from developing nation, but also the misperception of southerners as the greatest protagonist and the beneficiaries of slavery, at that point in our american history, recently within the past ten years there is a film and also mentioned a film that came up through sundance and is in distribution, a documentary
called "traces of the tree" about the brown-dewolf family, bristol, rhode island. >> i went to brown university, yes. i know all about the brown family, yes. >> imported 33,000 african-americans out of ghana and ran the university. [ inaudible ] through the slave trade and the doe. it is a northern phenomena. these people live in bristol, rhode island, so i would like to enfold or have your opinion with regard to the greater sin of slavery and to be absolved somehow in this little area of the world.
>> in waterford, i will absolve waterford which is a quaker community. >> could you place the journey in the greater context of the slave trade. >> gosh, i guess what i maybe just to restate what i was saying, i was watching the lehrer hour the other night and there was a young man going around saying end black history month, and he made a movie about it, and his point is we shouldn't set this apart, that black history is part of american history. this is all our story. i guess that's what i was saying, that that in this era at least slavery is so much a part of national story, and we continue to do this with the south and in right up to the present in a different way. we still, i think, view the south at times as northerners do
as an evil twin that somehow we project all what are really national problems, racism. violence, lack of education, whatever you want, and when that happens in mississippi or alabama, it is all over the news. when it happens in massachusetts or michigan, which it also happens all the time, somehow it is a different story. i just think with our whole history we have to -- i don't think it should be a blame game. i think we should recognize how much this was a part of our national story, and i think we all know this. when you read the details of it, when you read the dred scott decision in 1857 in which the supreme court, the majority opinion says that blacks have no rights that a white person, you know, is bound to respect, that essentially i think the word african-americans is
inappropriate for the pre-civil war period because they weren't americans. they had none of the rights of citizenship and according to the supreme court even free blacks really had no standing at all. they were saying the founders never intended them to have any standing. you read document after document like that and you read northern born presidents like franklin pierce and really all the presidents of the 1850s essentially mouthing pro-slavery views, and you see the picture a little differently. after brown's raid, you have massive demonstrations in the north against brown and in support of the slave-holding south because they're scared the union is going to split and they're saying, you're right, slavery is positive good, you have huge crowds in philadelphia, new york, and other cities, so i think we should again stop thinking of this as somehow a southern story apart from the whole. i don't think that answers your question. >> one more question. >> okay.
>> you reference going to the places history happened. how important is it that we continue to protect those places, places like the lincoln train station at gettysburg or harriet tubman's birthplace in maryland? >> i mean, we're speaking to the choir here. i think everyone in this room -- >> right out of the park. >> it braces this, and i know it can be hard to explain to people who either don't know or don't care about the history, maybe i will answer that since we would all be in agreement that these places should be saved, but we're history nerds and preservation and that's what we care about. i would say when i talk to students, i am very struck by
there is so much you can do on the internet now, and it is a remarkable tool, and i did it with my research for this book. it feels like cheating. you can access all of these archives online now and it really is a wonderful tool. when i talk to students, i am struck by how many of them think somehow you can get it all through the computer and that you don't need -- i am talking about students in history classes and universities that somehow you don't need to see the place because you can get everything you need on google and you can even look at it on google earth. i think as we all know you do need to go to these places and every time you do, you find something more. you find things you didn't even come looking for, and you have a different kind of experience, so i would say particularly for the generation coming up that is their experience is so mediated in every regard to have real places that they can go and step outside of that laptop experience and be presented with the real places.
i just think you can't replace that. of course, yes, save it all. [ applause ] >> on behalf of all of us i want to thank you for coming this evening, and i wanted to especially from the journey through higher ground give tony a small token of our appreciation and as jenn is getting that, what tony was just saying is why we, our team at the journey and i want those on our team to put your hand up, beth erickson, our vice president, john jones, our director of communications, jennifer moore, who runs our offices, robin myers, our director of educational programs. where is michelle kellogg? michelle is hopeful you will each buy a copy or two or three of tony's books, and we are also very blessed to have with us one
of our finest, our national advisor ron maxwell, a producer and director and with whom we were able to do an innovative and wonderful program with warner brothers on his remarkable work on doing limited edition for the sesquicentennial of gods and generals and gettysburg partnering with national geographic for beautiful maps, beautiful special features, and ron agreed to stay and sign a few for those who would like a copy of this limited edition box, but most importantly what tony was just saying and, joy, thank you for the question. theres no other solution than us all working together to raise awareness that once it is gone, it is gone, and it is not just the bricks and mortar. it truly is our culture. it is the stories, allowing people to step back into the
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