You Say I Want a Revolution

The Monist 107 (1):39-56 (2024)
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Abstract

An underexamined insight of W. E. B. Du Bois’s John Brown is that John Brown worked for much of his life to cultivate democratic relationships with the Black Americans with and for whom he worked. Brown did so through practicing deference and deliberation, and by seeking authorization. However, Brown’s commitment to these practices faltered at a crucial moment in decision making: when he raided Harpers Ferry absent widespread support. Examining this aspect of John Brown brings into relief an overlooked tragic choice Brown made: To act in accordance with his own substantive vision of what justice required, Brown eschewed democratic ideals and practices that grounded the distinctive relations of equality he had cultivated with the Black communities with and for whom he worked.

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Wendy Salkin
Stanford University

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