John Brown Today

How a Theater Critic Saved the Freedom of the Press in 1859

November 15, 2020 Louis DeCaro Jr. Season 1 Episode 3
John Brown Today
How a Theater Critic Saved the Freedom of the Press in 1859
Show Notes Chapter Markers

In this episode, we meet the forgotten journalist, Edward "Ned" House, who was the clandestine reporter for Horace Greeley's New York Daily Tribune at the time the paper was banned in Virginia following John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry.  Tribune, an antislavery Bohemian, worked as the Tribune's theater critic, but because he held Democratic party credentials, he was able to go to Charlestown and cover John Brown's last days, from late October until the day of the abolitionist's hanging.  House filed reports secretly, smuggling most of them and risking discovery by an angry proslavery community that wanted Brown and his men dead, trial or not.  Reflecting his detailed account, Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), DeCaro provides a glimpse of Ned House's brave and unsung role in documenting John Brown's final weeks as a prisoner with clarity, detail, and wit--all at the expense of slaveholding society--and in defense of the freedom of the press.

The Harper's Ferry raid and aftermath
Rushed through a trial
Ned House comes to Charlestown
Antislavery papers banned in Virginia; the proslavery New York Herald
Olcott: "The liberty of the press. . .was practically destroyed"
Why Ned House was sent to Virginia
House described
Smuggled correspondence
House's reportage described
Local blacks were watching John Brown closely
John Brown as prisoner
Charlestown's paranoia and fear
A dangerous job
Petty, cowardly Virginians
Brown, the most peaceful man in Charlestown
Ned House stays until the end
A forgotten eulogy
Life after Charlestown
Hidden in plain sight, overlooked by historians