John Brown Today

"Emperor" Shields Green--A Hollywood Movie and My Book Too

December 29, 2020 Louis DeCaro Jr. Season 1 Episode 9
John Brown Today
"Emperor" Shields Green--A Hollywood Movie and My Book Too
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Spoiler Alert! If you have not seen the popular movie, "Emperor," you may want to watch it before you listen to this podcast.

In this episode, Lou discusses the somewhat mysterious life of Shields Green, a.k.a. Emperor, one of John Brown's Harper's Ferry raiders.  As Lou recounts, it was the making of the "Emperor" movie that prompted him first to want to write a little article, which surprisingly led him down a historical rabbit hole in search of the little known figure of Emperor, ultimately resulting in his own book about Emperor. *  Reflecting on both the history and the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the "Emperor" movie, Lou shares some of the challenges and insights of trying to track down this famous fugitive. He concludes that "Emperor" Shields Green was not only an abolitionist in his own right, but one perhaps with a history of fighting slavery.  As Lou concludes, despite its many flaws and grossly misleading distortions, however, at least the "Emperor" movie led to the writing of a real inquiry into the life of Shields Green, an often forgotten Harper's Ferry raider.

* The Untold Story of Shields Green: The Life and Death of a Harper's Ferry Raider (NYU Press, 2020; an audio version read by Bill Quinn has been published by Tantor, and is available on Audible and

Introduction: A Raid and a Martyr
Harper's Ferry Raiders Executed
The trial and trials of Shields Green
The "Emperor" movie
Why I started my Emperor book
Nothing turned out like I expected
"By the time they catch us, we're not there!"
The elusive Mr. Green
A free black man?
Questioning the conventional narrative
An article becomes a book
A self-made freedom fighter
The "Emperor" movie grossly unhistorical
A wife and a son: movie and history
An action hero?
Turning the table on Brown
How the "Emperor" movie skews the truth
A skull, a relic
His soul goes marching on too