An Insurrection of Thought: The Literature of Slave Rebellion in the Age of John Brown
Mead, John L.
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This dissertation explores the culture of American radical abolitionism between the publication of David Walker’s 1829 Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World and Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s 1869 Army Life in a Black Regiment, particularly in relation to the career, ideas, and writing of John Brown, who led an incursion into slave territory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in 1859, and subsequently tried for treason and executed. The rhetoric of abolition is described as it relates to Brown’s militancy and anti-racism, placing Brown in the context of a larger movement into which he was thoroughly and actively integrated. Fictional representations of slave rebellion are also surveyed for their descriptions of a nation poised on the verge of the cataclysmic violence that Brown predicted at his death, and for their treatments of the right of revolution, the relationship between the white and black races, and the vulnerability of the slave economy and its culture to external or internal attack or collapse.