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Russell Banks, historian on
Brown's defining moment

Russell Banks BANKS: That's the moment when his life seems to be defined. Most of us feel the origins of meaning for a life lie in the beginning. He has almost a Christian reversal of that: the meaning of his life lies in his end. I think he saw that with extraordinary clarity and, for him, there was probably a kind of relief that he hadn't been able to experience before. But finally, all his life would have great meaning because of the terms of its end. And, I don't think he planned it. I think what he did do, however, was see that that was all that remained for him. He got down into that steel trap. Another man certainly would've turned and run into the abolitionist underground and disappeared, but he stayed. And it wasn't necessarily heroism, but there was a kind of genius to it.

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