This volume is a reminder that slavery was truly an awful institution that, even today in its legacy, continues to plague the United States. During its height, abolitionists "waved the bloody flag" and vigorously protested to end it, though it took plunging the nation into the Civil War to result in it being finally eradicated. One person that took a powerful stand against "the peculiar institution" was John Brown. Though Brown had led forces against pro-slavery opponents earlier, it wasn't until 1859 when he grabbed the national stage by leading forces, particularly enslaved African Americans, at Harper's Ferry. Unfortunately, the movement was ultimately unsuccessful, and Brown was captured and tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia (before Harper's Ferry was part of West Virginia). He was hanged despite vocal opposition from his supporters. Yet, his work as an abolitionist created extraordinary ripples of tension that significantly fueled the drift towards war.
Dr. Hermann Von Holst (1841 - 1904) was a historian who was born in Germany, emigrated to the United States after the end of the Civil War to teach, and then moved back and forth between the US and Germany on various teaching appointments. He wrote and taught extensively, focusing on American history. Von Holst was particularly moved by John Brown, and astounded by the Confederate apologists who housed a complete lack of understanding and empathy for the horrors of slavery.
Charles Town, West Virginia, where Brown met his end, is now the home of the American Public University System, which has done much to restore the town and maintains a museum in its library. This edition is dedicated to Dr. Wallace Boston, enthusiastic friend of Charles Town history and longtime President of APUS.