Workers Vanguard No. 1142
19 October 2018
On John Brown and T.W. Higginson
26 September 2018
Two minor inaccuracies crept into the first part of “In Honor of John Brown” (in WV 1139):
1) “The organization was called the United States League of Gileadites, named after Gideon, a figure in the Old Testament who repelled the attacks of enemies who far outnumbered his forces.”
The League was named after Mount Gilead, the site of Gideon’s victory against the Midianites in the Biblical book of Judges 7.
2) “Owen [Brown] subscribed to abolitionist papers like The Liberator, which John grew up reading.”
John Brown was past his 30th birthday when the The Liberator started publishing on Jan. 1, 1831.
I was glad to see mention of T.W. Higginson in the second part (WV 1140). Higginson played not only a courageous role in opposing Southern slavery, he was honest about the history of slavery’s barbarism in the North as well, a history that has not been generally appreciated until very recently. In a speech at the 1880 250th anniversary celebration of the settling of Cambridge, MA, he referred to the execution of two slaves in the city in 1755, one of whom was hung and gibbetted and the other burned at the stake. While some of the assembled doubted the veracity of the story, he was serving, as many revolutionaries do, as the historical memory of the oppressed. Higginson was a notable writer; his “Army Life in a Black Regiment” is an important account of his experiences as a colonel in the First South Carolina Volunteers. He was also a champion of women’s rights. In addition, as a noted literary figure, he corresponded with and encouraged the poet Emily Dickinson.
We thank Jim for his letter. The story of the Old Testament hero Gideon, who obeyed a sign from God to form an army to save the Israelites from their oppressors, was the inspiration for John Brown’s League of Gileadites. Brown viewed the Fugitive Slave Act as his sign from God to gather a small army to protect escaped slaves from the slave catchers. Jim is correct that William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator, began publication when Brown was already in his thirties.