"Fire From the Midst of You"
A Religious Life of John Brown
Published by: NYU Press
349 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- ISBN: 9780814719220
- Published: October 2005
John Brown is usually remembered as a terrorist whose unbridled hatred of slavery drove him to the ill-fated raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in 1859. Tried and executed for seizing the arsenal and attempting to spur a liberation movement among the slaves, Brown was the ultimate cause celebre for a country on the brink of civil war.
“Fire from the Midst of You” situates Brown within the religious and social context of a nation steeped in racism, showing his roots in Puritan abolitionism. DeCaro explores Brown's unusual family heritage as well as his business and personal losses, retracing his path to the Southern gallows. In contrast to the popular image of Brown as a violent fanatic, DeCaro contextualizes Brown's actions, emphasizing the intensely religious nature of the antebellum U.S. in which he lived. He articulates the nature of Brown's radical faith and shows that, when viewed in the context of his times, he was not the religious fanatic that many have understood him to be. DeCaro calls Brown a “Protestant saint”—an imperfect believer seeking to realize his own perceived calling in divine providence.
In line with the post-millennial theology of his day, Brown understood God as working through mankind and the church to renew and revive sinful humanity. He read the Bible not only as God's word, but as God's word to John Brown. DeCaro traces Brown's life and development to show how by forging faith as a radical weapon, Brown forced the entire nation to a point of crisis.
“Fire from the Midst of You” defies the standard narrative with a new reading of John Brown. Here is the man that the preeminent Black scholar W.E.B. Du Bois called a "mighty warning" and the one Malcolm X called “a real white liberal.”
"A welcome addition to the literature of John Brown." ~Publishers Weekly
"Decaro sets out to establish Brown’s legacy as one grounded in an alternative evangelical tradition that decried pacifism, developed a doctrine of holy war, and called any church that did not actively work for abolition anti-Christian. He places Brown in his religious milieu, reforming the legacy of this religious extremist." ~Library Journal
"A welcome addition to the literature on John Brown's life and legacy. One of the book's strongest features is its detailed description of Brown's longstanding contacts and friendships with black Americans. But DeCaros most important achievement is to have explored in greater depth and more sympathetically than any previous scholar the precise nature of the religious convictions that shaped Brown's career as a freedom fighter." ~Gerald W. McFarland,author of A Scattered People: An American Family Moves West
"Skillfully contextualizes John Brown's religious and abolitionist development within his Calvinist background and the evangelical movement of ninteenth-century America." ~Jean Libby,editor of John Brown Mysteries
"Traces the religious and political trajectory of John Brown not as the fanatic bent on waging war against the United States, but as a religious revolutionary, like Malcolm X, following a biblical command that places justice before peace. Louis DeCaros fresh interpretation of Brown and his time does more than rescue a maligned figure in U.S. history from an army of scholarly foes. He offers a deeply nuanced character profile of Brown and his family, a charismatic abolitionist who took his Bible seriously, and shook his country the better to shake slavery out of it. No future study of John Brown can ignore this book." ~William Loren Katz,author of Eyewitness: A Living Documentary of the African American Contribution to American History