Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. John Brown's Holy War Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Reference
Interview Transcripts | Primary Sources Documents | Further Reading

Edward Renehan, historian, on
John Brown's many faces

Ed Renehan

RENEHAN: : I don't think there's any more enigmatic fellow in our national past than John Brown. Look at all his many faces: the devout Christian, the lying, swindling businessman, the con man, the selfless martyr, the murderer, the terrorizer, the killer of fathers ... while children look on. He is all these people, and he's a very hard guy to get a bead on him -- not just now, so many decades later. But I think even then there were mixed, confused emotions about Brown. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, writing about Brown many decades after Brown was dead, talked about the insanity that sat within the great hero -- the selfless martyr -- and Higginson always blamed himself. Higginson, in retrospect, decided that John Brown was a self-destructive force, and Higginson blamed himself for not realizing that John Brown was bound to doom himself in some way, shape, or form on his fight. And, in the end, Higginson viewed it as an unnecessary martyrdom that John Brown had surrendered himself to.

previous | back to Interview Transcripts


Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Maps | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

©  New content 1999 PBS Online / WGBH