Public Program- David S. Reynolds

Lectures and Performances
Friday, November 6, 2009 - 7:30pm

"Warriors for Freedom: John Brown and Henry David Thoreau"
by David S. Reynolds


David S. Reynolds, author of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (Knopf, 2005), will describe how the Transcendentalists were the boldest and most publicly visible proponents of John Brown in the immediate aftermath of Harpers Ferry. Virtually everyone in the North, including radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, initially reacted negatively to Brown's attack on Virginia. Henry David Thoreau stood alone in coming out immediately and eloquently on Brown's behalf and planted the seed for the mass veneration of John Brown that grew steadily in the months before and after John Brown's execution on December 2, 1859. Focusing on three newly discovered letters housed at the American Antiquarian Society and written by Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Dr. Reynolds will argue that if it had not been for the positive reception and promotion of John Brown by Thoreau and other Transcendentalists, Brown may very well have passed into obscurity as a solitary, crazed anarchist.

David S. Reynolds is distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His cultural biography John Brown, Abolitionist won the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award and was the most widely reviewed book in American in the spring of 2005. Professor Reynolds has authored or edited a dozen other books, including Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, Walt Whitman's America, and Beneath the American Renaissance. Among the awards his books have won are the Bancroft Prize, the Christian Gauss Award, and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

John Brown and New England
A series of public programs commemorating the 150th anniversary of John Brown's raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry. John Brown and New England is a collaborative project of the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Thoreau Society, Worcester State College, and Mechanics Hall. This program is funded in part by the Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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