John Brown Today
The "Battle Hymn" Revision, White Liberals, and Malcolm X
November 22, 2020
Louis DeCaro Jr.
In this episode, we explore the origins of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," reflecting upon the myths and realities of the "white liberal" abolitionist orientation of writer Julia Ward Howe and the pacifist abolitionist elites, and their motivations for rewriting "The John Brown Song." Viewing the "The Battle Hymn" as an intentional replacement on the part of the abolitionists, we consider the raw liberationist ethos of "The John Brown Song" and why it was replaced, and the significance of its mythology in our own thinking about the antebellum and Civil War eras. Drawing upon the searing analysis of Malcolm X and the 1963 March on Washington, DeCaro draws his own conclusions about what happened to "The John Brown Song" and why. This narrative is based upon an essay from DeCaro's book, John Brown, Emancipator.
The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" story
The "Battle Hymn" story revisited
The "John Brown Song" background
Boyd Stutler on the "John Brown Song"
The Ellsworth revision attempt
Our John Brown had lambs, too
Julia Ward Howe's motivations
The abolitionists' ambivalence toward John Brown
The "John Brown Song" revealed
Julia Ward Howe, abolitionists, and John Brown
Unsettled by the "John Brown Song"
Fast-forward: The March on Washington, 1963
Malcolm X's critique of the March
Malcolm's useful wisdom for history
Another grassroots phenomenon
The Song, like the March, had to be controlled
The "John Brown Song" vs. "The Battle Hymn"
Layers of crimson sentimentality
Listen to the voices of slaves
The real "word of the hour"