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Ted A. SmithWeird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics

Stanford University Press, 2014

by Franklin Rausch on June 23, 2015

Ted A. Smith

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People living in the modern west generally have no problem criticizing religiously-justified violence. It's therefore always interesting when I discuss John Brown, a man who legitimized anti-slavery violence Biblically. My most recent batch of students sought to resolve this tension by declaring John Brown to be "crazy but right." In his new book Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics (Stanford University Press, 2014), Ted A. Smith unravels the tensions that led to my students' ambiguous conclusion. By providing a profound ethical meditation on Brown and his fellow raiders to challenge how people, particularly Americans, think about morality; the relationship between religion, the state, and violence; and to the possibilities of judgment and redemption, Smith illustrates how an ethical and philosophical reading of history can help us to better understand the world we live in, what we should do, and of the importance of going beyond just what we ought to do.

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Akinyele Omowale UmojaWe Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement

June 20, 2015

The historiography of the southern Civil Rights Movement has long focused on the tactic of non-violence. With only a few notable exceptions, most scholarship locates the use of armed self-defense and other forms of armed resistance in northern cities while temporally, we usually think of these strategies as rising to prominence only later in the […]

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Mariana CandidoAn African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and its Hinterland

April 17, 2015

Mariana Candido’s book An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World. Benguela and its Hinterland (Cambridge University Press, 2013) is a powerful and moving exploration of the history and development of the port of Benguela. Founded by the Portuguese in the early seventeenth century, Benguela, located on the central coast of present-day Angola, was the third largest […]

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Kirt von DaackeFreedom Has a Face: Race, Identity, and Community in Jefferson’s Virginia

April 16, 2015

In this podcast I talk to Kirt von Daacke about his 2012 work, Freedom Has a Face: Race, Identity, and Community in Jefferson's Virginia (University of Virginia Press, 2012). Professor von Daacke is Associate Professor of History and Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. In this interview a […]

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Paula T. ConnollySlavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790-2010

March 26, 2015

The "peculiar institution" upon which the US nation was founded is still rich for examination.  Perhaps this is why it is a subject to which 21st century authors continue to return.   In this exploration of slavery, Paula T. Connolly, author of Slavery in American Children's Literature 1790 – 2010 (University of Iowa, 2013), provides an expansive […]

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Carolyn FinneyBlack Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors

March 17, 2015

Geographer Carolyn Finney wrote Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), out of a frustration with the dominant environmental discourse that, she asserts, doesn't fully take into consideration the perspectives and interests of African Americans. Finney takes care to recognize the multiplicity of African […]

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Bill T. JonesStory/Time: The Life of An Idea

March 17, 2015

When does a dance become a book? How does choreography lend itself to the page? What discontents exist in theorizing performance that are best explored through the written word? And how does one distill the hours of embodied practice into 100 or so pages of a tightly packaged and beautifully rendered text? It was the […]

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Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Postwar America

March 15, 2015

Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos are the authors of Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Postwar America (Oxford University Press, 2014). McAdam is The Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology at Stanford University and the former Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Kloos is a scholar of political […]

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David Krugler1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back

February 13, 2015

In 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back (Cambridge University Press, 2014), David Krugler chronicles the origins and development of ten major race riots that took place in the United States during that year. Although sustained, anti-black violence both predates and succeeds the year under examination,  1919 distinguishes itself by the sheer […]

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Gavin WrightSharing the Prize: The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South

February 13, 2015

[Cross-posted from New Books in History]  Americans rightly think of the civil rights legislation of 1964 and '65 as a social and legal revolution. In Sharing the Prize: The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South (Harvard University Press, 2013), Gavin Wright argues that it was an economic one, too. In clear and tightly organized prose, the […]

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