John Brown

How Pundits are Misreading Obama’s Speech—and Teddy Roosevelt’s
December 07, 2011

The ghost of Theodore Roosevelt presided over President Obama's speech yesterday afternoon in Osawatomie, Kansas. Indeed, in the week leading up to the president’s Osawatomie address, the White House made clear that the President was deliberately courting analogies with Roosevelt. TR, after all, had traveled to the very same town nearly 100 years earlier to give his famous “New Nationalism” address, calling for the federal government to ensure that the prerogatives of private property did not trump the rights of the commonwealth.

Telling War Stories
June 30, 2011

I. On a hot Saturday in September 1962, I crowded with my brothers and cousins into my aunt and uncle’s station wagon and drove off to war. Passing through our county in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, we headed toward Charles Town, West Virginia, then crossed over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers at Harpers Ferry into Maryland. We had traveled through the familiar historic landscape of Stonewall Jackson’s skirmishes, Mosby’s raids, Sheridan’s ride, and John Brown’s capture and hanging to witness the centennial re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam.

Discovering Equality
January 13, 2011

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery By Eric Foner (W.W. Norton, 426 pp., $29.95) I. As we begin a raft of sesquicentennials that will carry us through at least the next half-decade—the secession of Southern states, the formation of the Confederacy, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox, and so on—I confess to feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation. These are all signal events in our history, the roadblocks and thoroughfares in the making of modern America, and at a time of general crisis they are especially important to revisit.

A Pawn, A Queen
February 04, 2010

Police, Adjective IFC Films The Young Victoria Apparition   The Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu shows once again that, for him, film is a means of looking at an idea. The operative word is “looking.” The subtitles of Police, Adjective convey that his dialogue is reasoned and seasoned, but it rarely seems primary. Chiefly, it enhances what we are watching. Ideas are hardly a novelty in films, but some such works present their ideas visually, as do Porumboiu’s. He provides just enough plot to assure us that he hasn’t forgotten about it.

Change of Heartland
September 10, 2007

What's not the matter with Kansas.

A Paler Shade of White
June 24, 2002

Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past by David R. Roediger (University of California Press, 323 pp., $29.95) "What is a White Man?" asked Charles Chesnutt in the pages of the Independent, a mass-circulation weekly, in 1889. This was no mere academic question.