cover of book

Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown
edited by Peggy A. Russo, Paul Finkelman and Peggy A. Russo
Ohio University Press, 2005
Cloth: 978-0-8214-1630-3 | eISBN: 978-0-8214-4150-3 | Paper: 978-0-8214-1631-0
Library of Congress Classification E451.T37 2005
Dewey Decimal Classification 973.7114


More than two centuries after his birth and almost a century and a half after his death, the legendary life and legacy of John Brown go marching on. Variously deemed martyr, madman, monster, terrorist, and saint, he remains one of the most controversial figures in America’s history. Brown’s actions in Kansas and in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, were major catalysts for the American Civil War, and continue today to evoke praise or condemnation.

Through the prisms of history, literature, psychology, criminal justice, oral history, African American studies, political science, film studies, and anthropology, Terrible Swift Sword offers insights not only into John Brown’s controversial character and motives but also into the nature of a troubled society before, during, and after the Civil War. The contributors discuss reasons why Brown’s contemporaries supported him, analyze Brown’s behavior and his depiction in literature, and examine the iconography and mythology surrounding him.

The interdisciplinary focus brought by editors Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman makes this collection unique. Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown will appeal to a broad audience of readers interested in this turbulent moment in American history.

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