I’ve really learned a lot viewing the three-part PBS series, The Abolitionists.  Having  a lived a life committed to nonviolence and knowing a good deal about the early practitioners I was chagrined — in a motivating way– to see how little I knew of William Lloyd Garrison.

His self published “Liberator” was the prime mover in the growth of anti slavery sentiment from the 1830s through to the Jan 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation — an event he, and his battle-companion Frederick Douglass, doubted would happen, even after Lincoln signaled that he would issue it.

I knew absolutely nothing at all about Angela Grimke, coming from a slave owning family to be a force in the abolitionists’ movement.

I knew that a senator had been struck with a cane in the Senate chambers in the years leading up to the war.  I had no idea that South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner so viciously that he never fully recovered; Preston was fined $300.

And finally,  I didn’t know much about John Brown, beyond his association with Harper’s Ferry and the childhood “John Brown’s Body lies a moudering in the grave” — which, it turns out was not a child’s song at all.  Created by Union soldiers and embellished wherever it was sung the tune was so memorable that Julia Ward Howe was persuaded to ‘write some good words’ to it, which became the Battle Hymn of the Republic. [Intellectual property rights be damned!]

Well I know a bit more now, and have added Brown to my long list of to-read-more-abouts.  Here he is, as he is sentenced to be hung for his Harper’s Ferry (Armory) raid.

I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.” I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done–as I have always freely admitted I have done–in behalf of His despised poor was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments–I submit; so let it be done!

Do watch, or buy the DVD and watch again, The Abolitionists.  And, take a tour through Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States for his take on John Brown..