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Democracy's ReconstructionThinking Politically with W.E.B. Du Bois$
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Lawrie Balfour

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195377293

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195377293.001.0001

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Three. Resurrecting John Brown

Three. Resurrecting John Brown

(p.47) Three. Resurrecting John Brown
Democracy's Reconstruction

Lawrie Balfour (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the political implications of Du Bois's 1909 recasting of John Brown's life story. Written at a time when antiblack violence was actively abetted or at least unanswered by white political leaders, John Brown reveals how the disavowal of the violence of the past underwrites current practices of racialized brutality and explores what it would mean to come to terms with the idea that “John Brown was right.” It is argued that although the biography vindicates Brown and his campaign, it also unsettles Brown's conception of American mission and models a tragic form of historical memory that ought to inform our own reflections on race and violence in an age of terror.

Keywords:   W. E. B. Du Bois, John Brown, violence, American history, race

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