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The Zealot and the Emancipator tells the story of the epic struggle over slavery, with clear parallels to our current moment, Brands offers a dual portrait of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, two men with radically different views on how moral people must respond to our democracy’s most extreme injustice: by incremental change within the system? Or by radical upheaval?
When the book opens in the mid-nineteenth century, although abolitionists had been working peacefully to end slavery for decades, the most they had achieved was containing its spread in the expanding republic. Then in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act reversed even that, opening two new states to slavery.
New Englander John Brown was a charismatic and deeply religious man who heard the God of the Old Testament speaking to him, telling him to destroy slavery by any means—including the sword. Meanwhile in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was an ambitious lawyer and failed politician who believed that slavery, while surely a sin, was guaranteed in the Constitution. The only way to fight it was by political means.
As our contemporary political and social divisiveness increasingly seems too vast for politics-as-usual to resolve, master storyteller H. W. Brands narrates with reverberating relevance—and in thrilling fashion—how two men confronted America’s gravest scourge in the moments before the nation’s darkest hour.
H. W. Brands holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. A New York Times bestselling author, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American and Traitor to His Class.
This virtual event is free and open to the public. The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom is available for purchase online at A Cappella Books.
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