• John Brown, Abolitionist

  • The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights
  • By: David S. Reynolds
  • Narrated by: P.J. Ochlan
  • Length: 25 hrs and 14 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (171 ratings)

Prime logo Prime members: New to Audible?
Get 2 free audiobooks during trial.
Pick 1 audiobook a month from our unmatched collection.
Listen all you want to thousands of included audiobooks, Originals, and podcasts.
Access exclusive sales and deals.
Premium Plus auto-renews for $14.95/mo after 30 days. Cancel anytime.
John Brown, Abolitionist  By  cover art

John Brown, Abolitionist

By: David S. Reynolds
Narrated by: P.J. Ochlan
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $29.25

Buy for $29.25

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's summary

Few historical figures are as intriguing as John Brown, the controversial Abolitionist who used terrorist tactics against slavery and single-handedly changed the course of American history. This brilliant biography of Brown (1800-1859) by the prize-winning critic and cultural biographer David S. Reynolds brings to life the Puritan warrior who gripped slavery by the throat and triggered the Civil War.

When does principled resistance become anarchic brutality? How can a murderer be viewed as a heroic freedom fighter? The case of John Brown opens windows on these timely issues. Was Brown an insane criminal or a Christ-like martyr? A forerunner of Osama bin Laden or of Martin Luther King, Jr.? David Reynolds sorts through the tangled evidence and makes some surprising findings.

Reynolds demonstrates that Brown’s most violent acts - his slaughter of unarmed citizens in Kansas, his liberation of slaves in Missouri, and his dramatic raid, in October 1859, on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia - were inspired by the slave revolts, guerilla warfare, and revolutionary Christianity of the day. He shows us how Brown seized the nation’s attention, creating sudden unity in the North, where the Transcendentalists led the way in sanctifying Brown, and infuriating the South, where proslavery fire-eaters exploited the Harpers Ferry raid to whip up a secessionist frenzy. In fascinating detail, Reynolds recounts how Brown permeated politics and popular culture during the Civil War and beyond. He reveals the true depth of Brown’s achievement: not only did Brown spark the war that ended slavery, but he planted the seeds of the civil rights movement by making a pioneering demand for complete social and political equality for America’s ethnic minorities.

A deeply researched and vividly written cultural biography - a revelation of John Brown and his meaning for America.

“Absorbing.” (Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times Book Review)

“Almost every page forces you to think hard, and in new ways, about American violence, American history, and what used to be called the American character.” (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker)

©2004 David S. Reynolds (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“Splendidly written . . . the reader is led carefully by the author, who builds the story and lets the readers draw their own conclusions about Brown and his actions . . . Reynolds is that rarest of authors who knows how to write well and who successfully presents a life-size image of Brown, warts and all.” (Brian Richard Boylan, Denver Post)

“This well-researched book . . . peels away some of the extreme interpretations of Brown and offers a generally balanced and objective assessment of why he should matter.” (Robert Joiner, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Great sensitivity, thorough research, and some marvelous narrative.” (David W. Blight, Washington Post Book World)

“A rich, nuanced and exhaustively researched ‘life and times’ that positions the abolitionist firmly in the context of 19th century American culture . . . impeccably written.” (Chuck Leddy, San Francisco Chronicle)