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tv   [untitled]    May 6, 2012 4:30pm-5:00pm EDT

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a whole other party forum. 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 c conciliatory towards the south and the whole war would have been deferred for at least another four years. 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
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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 that. >> it's one of the very many devastating battlefield sights within the journey. it was because of antietem that lincoln was 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.
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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 awe 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 antetum, 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 bashing lincoln but
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suggesting that he wasn't the great emancipator initially that people imagined. he actually was 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 confederate see. they lead the troops in a counterattack against john brown, stonewall jackson turns up there. it's almost a prequel to "gods and generals."
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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
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thoughts and fears to us. there are stories in here that are just astonishingly powerful, one of which is the story of african-american 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. he was fed up and continuing to do that. 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 brown's raiders. they have to know the story, and with dangerfield newby they have a code wo notes. in one fokt is the actual letter you write about here from his wife saying come get us.
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you can buy us now. come now. in the other personal note from john brown saying we must free the millions of enslaved. the man is looking at it saying, which do i do? tell us the rest of that story. >> yeah. 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 that hideout all that summer. you can how 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 die. among the letters are astonishing are from harriet
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newby to dangerfield. part of what is astonishing is most of the slaves 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. 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
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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 measure of his band, and also his support. he had influential african-americans and very influential white northern americans from emerson and thoreau. the society and the secret six, who 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
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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 resettled in africa and central america because they couldn't live as equals to whites. he's an abolitionist. many were condescending. their view was blacks were too s do i will to fight for freedom and leave it to us benevolent whites to care of this issue for
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you. brown completely rejected them. among those he saw support from was frederick douglas. 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
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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, which might well have been true. only one thomas higerson remains true to brown. he has very broad support from very prominent people, so this really isn't just, you know, a 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.
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>> my name is peter. i'm the architect at harper's ferry national park. >> you're 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? >> i think he leads that march every year. so i encourage you it was pretty raw when i did it. which was actually appropriate because on the night that brown did it in 1859 with his men, it was wet and cold.
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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 strangeness of the past but also communicating it 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 sounds, all of that just i
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felt would be able to write that scene in a way that otherwise from archival research alone would have been more difficult. on your second question there are movies that allude to john brown, some pretty bad ones. 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 another. i think he makes us very uncomfortable, and that's why i find him 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 the story going into it.
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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,
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which is quite remarkable and surprised me and i think people outside of kansas and month aren't aware of is five years missouri aren't very aware of that five years before the first battle of manassas 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.
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>> i want neil keller. >> do you think john brown was -- do you think the bloodshed was necessary to end slavery? >> 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 penn warren, they go right off the rails. everyone wants to say he was a monster and madman or a martyr
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and freedom fighter and hero. 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. and also be uncomfortable with the fact that he dragged pro slavery settlers from their beds in kansas in the middle of the night and slaughter them with broad swords. there is no way in my view to feel all one way or all the other. some people do. he is an immensely complex figure. the years i spent researching and writing this book, one minute i wouldn't say i ever loved him. he is not a warm and cuddly guy. i would respect and admire him.
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another moment i would think how could you do this? you know. so, again, that's part of what i find really compelling about him. i'm just not prepared to say all right, all wrong, you know, had to be this way or not. >> judith? >> in the context of your journey from slavery, you mentioned several different times that the northern abolitionists who were -- slavery from the developing nation, but also the misperception of southerners as the protagonists and beneficiary s, at that point in our -- american history, recently within the past ten years, there
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is a film, you mentioned. i a film that came up through sundance and is in distribution a documentary called "traces of the trade." it is about the brown and wolf family about the greatest -- >> i went to brown university. i know all about the brown family. >> he ran the university and most of the north through the slave trade. >> right. right. >> and the documentary is available on youtube. it is a phenomenal story. i would like to enfold or have your opinion with regard to the
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greatest sin of slavery. i would like us to be absolved somehow in this little area of the world. >> in waterford, i'll absolve waterford. it was a quaker community. >> could you place the journey in the greater context of the slave trade? >> oh, gosh. i guess what i maybe just to restate. i was watching the leher hour the other night. there was a young african-american with a placard saying "end black history month." his point is we shouldn't set this apart. black history is part of american history. this is all our story. and i guess that's what i was saying. in this era, at least, slavery is so much a part of the
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national story. we continue to do this with the south 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. we project what a national problems of racism and violence and lack of education. when that happens in mississippi or alabama, it's all over the news. when it happens in massachusetts and michigan, which it happens all the time, somehow it is a different story. i 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. i think we all know this. when you read the details of it and you read the dred scott decision in 1857 in which the majority of the supreme court decision, blacks have no rights
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as a white person is bound to expect. i think the word african-american is inappropriate for the period because they were not americans. they did not have the rights. even free blacks had no standing. they said 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 the presidents of the 1850s essentially mouthing pro-slavery views. you see the picture differently. after brown's raid, you have massive demonstrations in the north against brown and in support of the slave-holding south because they are scared the union is going to split. they are saying, you are right. it is huge. we should stop thinking of this as somehow a southern story
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apart from the whole. i don't think that answers your question, but i try. >> joy. >> you referenced going to the places history happened. how important is it that we continue to protect those places? places like the train station or harriet tubman's home? >> you are speaking to the room. it embraces this. it is hard to people who don't know. maybe i'll answer that because we are all in agreement because these places should be safe. we're history nerds and preservation.
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i would say when i talk to students, i'm very struck by there is so much you can do on the internet now. it is a remarkable tool. i did it with this book. you can review the archives. i'm struck by how many students think that you can get it all through the computer and you don't need -- i'm talking about students in history classes at universities that somehow you don't need to see the place because you can get everything you need to 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. every time you do, you find something more. you find things you cannot come looking for. you have a different kind of experience. i would say particularly for the generation coming up that is
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their experience is so mediated 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. i wanted to especially from the journey through hallowed ground, give a token of our protection. as jen is getting that, what tony was just saying is why we are a team at the journey. i want those on our team to put your hand up. beth ericson and jennifer moore who runs our offices, robyn
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myers, our director of educational program. where's michelle kellogg? michelle is hopeful you will buy a copy or two or three of tony's books. we are blessed to have with us is the national advisor ron maxwell. the producer of "gods in general." and with whom we were able to do a very innovative program with warner bros. on his remarkable work on doing a limited edition and partners with national geographic with beautiful maps and special features. ron has agreed to stay and sign a few for those who would like a copy of the limited edition box. most importantly what tony was just saying and joy, thank you for that question. there is no other solution than us all working together to raise awareness. once it is gone, it is gone.
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it is not just the bricks and mortar. it is truly is our culture. it is the stories. allowing people to step back in the boots and minds. it makes a difference with our students. i want to thank you for coming today. by you being here, we have been able to raise additional funds for our educational programs. tony, on behalf of all of us, a very small token of our appreciation. >> with a clod of hallowed dirt. >> we hope you stay and chat and have a bit more wine and conversation. buy a book and have it signed. thank you all for coming. >> thank you. [ applause ]
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tonight on q & a. >> beyond regard this as just the biography of lyndon johnson. i want each book to examine the kind of political power in america. and i'm saying this is a kind of political power. seeing what a president can do in a moment of great -- in a time of great crisis. great crisis how he gathers -- what does he do to get legislation moving? to take command in washington. that's the way of examining power in a time of crisis. i said i want to do this in full. i suppose it takes 300 pages in there. so i couldn't -- that's why i just said let's examine this. >> robert caro on the passage of power in thee


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