Thursday, December 10, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor:

John Brown is not a widely revered figure of the African American rights movement.  John Brown was a man with unfailing loyalty to his cause, and like Martin Luther King, it cost him his life.  It is true that before the Jim Crow era, many great men, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson highly respected Brown and his actions.  Indeed, as "Freedom's Martyr" states, W.E.B. Du Bois said Brown was the white American who had "come nearest to touching the real souls of black folk." 

Brown's violent approach ultimately led to his downfall.  The radical actions he took got the attention of the nation, but what light did his actions shed on the issue?  John Brown advocated violence as the solution to the country's division over slavery, and in doing so he exacerbated the tensions that led to secession and civil war.  Brown's tendency to violence increased sectionalist tensions and aggression. 

The fact is that John Brown's massacres and acts of violence cannot be ignored.  His cause was just, but does the ends justify the means?  David S. Reynolds, author of "Freedom's Martyr" would say yes.  But John Brown was swept away by the bloody tides of the era and contributed to his state's unsavory nickname, "Bleeding Kansas," an unauthorized precursor to the civil war. 

The decision to posthumously pardon someone  is difficult.  It is important to recognize the merit of the just cause Brown fought for, and his bravery in defending it until death.  However, a presidential pardon sends the message that the massacre of people with opposite beliefs is justified in the name of cause.

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