Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program
Johns Hopkins University
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
John Brown is one of the most divisive figures in American history. Historians simply cannot agree on his legacy. Was he a madman, martyr, or perhaps something different entirely? Using my Woodrow Wilson funding, I took a step back from this debate and considered another approach to the problem: how has Brown been used by other figures throughout the twentieth century in America? Researching references to Brown in works by anarchists, socialists, and other radicals around the turn of the twentieth century and speeches by Malcolm X and his contemporaries in the 1960s, I investigate Brown’s role as a uniquely “American” symbol, prone to appropriation (and misappropriation) by activists in the last 100 years.