HW Brands: The Zealot and the Emancipator
Smithsonian Associates, Art of Living Author Interview Series
Welcome to The Not Old Better Show. I’m Paul Vogelzang, and this is episode #498.
H. W. Brands will be presenting at the Smithsonian Associates program Nov. 20, 2020, and the title of his presentation is The Zealot and the Emancipator, which is the title of H. W. Brands’ new book, which we will be discussing today here on the show.
In the mid-19th century, although abolitionists had been working peacefully to end slavery for decades, the most they had achieved was containing its spread in the expanding republic. Then in 1854, the Kansas–Nebraska Act reversed even that, opening two new states to slavery, along with a nor fight at Harper’s Ferry Virginia.
That, of course, is our guest today, author, historian, H. W. Brands reading from his new book, The Zealot and the Emancipator.
In our interview today, H. W. Brands and I will discuss the complicated New Englander John Brown, who was a charismatic and deeply religious man who’d heard the God of the Old Testament speaking to him, telling him to destroy slavery by any means—including the sword. Meanwhile, in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was an ambitious lawyer and failed politician who believed that slavery, while surely a sin, was guaranteed in the Constitution. The only way to fight it was by political means.
Drawing on his new book The Zealot and the Emancipator, historian H.W. Brands offers a dual portrait of Brown and Lincoln, in a dual portrait as men with profoundly different views on how moral people must respond to our democracy’s most extreme injustice: by incremental change or by radical upheaval? He also examines how historical reckoning finds relevance in today’s political climate.
Brands holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He has written more than a dozen biographies and histories, two of which, The First American and Traitor to His Class, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Please join me in welcoming to The Not Old Better Show, author, historian H. W. Brands.
My thanks to author, historian, H. W. Brands for his generous time today. Please check out the show notes for more details about H. W. Brands and his upcoming Smithsonian Associates presentation, which will be wonderful. My thanks to the generosity of the Smithsonian Associates team and for all they do to support the show. My thanks, too, to you, our wonderful Not Old Better Show audience. Please practice smart social distancing, be safe, and remember, let’s talk about better. The Not Old Better Show. Thanks, everybody.
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